BREAKING: Court Rules Armslist.com Not Responsible for Handgun Murder

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 3.16.00 PMA three-judge panel of the Chicago-based 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals has tossed a lawsuit against Armslist.com. The federal court ruled that the online private sales site is not liable for its users’ actions. “The case concerns a woman murdered in 2011 with a .40-caliber handgun that a Seattle man advertised on Armslist for $400,” arstechnica.com reports. “Demetry Smirnov, the gun purchaser, murdered Jitka Vesel in Chicago with that weapon after an online romance soured. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison. The man who sold him the gun . . .

Benedict Ladera, was handed a year in jail for illegally selling the firearm, as federal regulations prohibit the transfer of weapons to people in another state or country, the appeals court said. The slain woman’s brother, Alex, sued the website for damages, among other things, alleging negligence.”

The judgement [click here for the full text] concluded . . .

Armslist permitted Ladera to place an advertisement on its website and nothing more. It did not invite Ladera or Smirnov to break the law. Alex’s allegations fall short of alleging any cognizable negligence claim for which Armslist could be held responsible for Smirnov’s acts.

A lawyer for Armslist.com, James Vogts, told wsj.com’s Law Blog that “while Ms. Vesel’s death was a tragedy, this was a lawsuit that had no merit and should never have been filed.” [h/t Pascal]

comments

  1. avatar DJ9 says:

    Good news!

    Hope this is a sign of a trend in the right direction.

  2. avatar lizzrd says:

    Every once in a while a tiny bit of sanity pops it’s head up out of the ooze.

    1. avatar TheBear says:

      Actually the last few years have been very kind to the 2nd amendment from a legal perspective.

      The irony is that all the boo-hooing from the anti gun crowd has forced judges to brush up on their 2nd amendment history. The result is loosening regulations, not tightening.

  3. avatar Jay-El says:

    To the 7th Circuit judges:

    Come here, y’all, and let me give you a big ol’ hug.

  4. avatar Jay-El says:

    Oh, and perhaps now Mr. B. Obama can abandon his talking point about how anybody can get online and buy a gun with no questions asked and no background checks? Just a suggestion.

    1. avatar DJ9 says:

      Well, if you read the article carefully, you’ll see that the sell DID sell the gun across state lines illegally, and got a year in jail for doing so.

      The court just said that Armslist didn’t participate in anything illegal, they just allowed the seller to place an ad on their site. Thousands of folks do this all the time, and then transfer the firearm in a legal manner; in this case, the seller didn’t, and it caught up with him.

      Word to the wise, folks; if someone asks you to break the law, it might not be a good idea to do so, even for extra cash. Think about it — there might be a bad reason (along with all the harmless reasons) for them to want to do the transaction that way.

      And that’s before we even start to talk about ATF/BATFE sting operations…

      1. avatar Scrubula says:

        Also, nothing to prevent people from moving onto some kind of forum to advertise if this lawsuit went through and armslist was killed by it.
        Actually, I am certain that black market weapons forums exist somewhere.

        1. avatar Pascal says:

          Go to the source link for the article and search “darknet” or simply put into your favorite search engine. In short, yes they exist.

      2. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

        about 6 wks ago, I was in Louisville and while outside my hotel, smoking a cigar, several gentlemen joined me. They were all reserve Army CID, and one was an ATF agent. He laughed about some of the idiots who break the law during sting ops, after they give them several times to not and back out. I was glad he was being honest about it and then shaking my head at the few who screw it up for the rest of us.

      3. avatar LarryinTX says:

        How many such prosecutions occurred where the transaction did n precede a murder? A better point would be that all the laws n the world STILL did not prevent the murder, why pass more? And did anyone mention whether the purchaser/killer could have passed a NICS check? I seem to have missed that part.

  5. avatar MotoJB says:

    Pathetic law suit…glad truth prevailed in this case. I also hope the plaintiff’s have huge attorney’s fee’s to pay now.

  6. avatar Mediocrates says:

    this was a lawsuit that had no merit and should never have been filed.

    ‘Merica!

  7. avatar Scrubula says:

    Finally some sense.
    You don’t sue the car dealership when someone runs over your child.

    1. avatar Fed Up says:

      Of course not.
      You sue the newspaper that let the car dealership buy a full page advertisement, if you want to make it analogous to the Armslist suit.

      1. avatar Delmarva Chip says:

        This wasn’t even a “full page ad” type of thing, if I understand correctly. More akin to some guy selling a used car in the classifieds.

        Point made though … allowing this case to move forward would have meant that classified ads (and the web equivalent) would perhaps cease to exist because of liability concerns.

  8. avatar Herman Johnson says:

    We need to go clear back to where we hold the Person responsible for their actions, not what they used. I wonder how many car manufacturer’s were held responsible, when a drunk wrecked a car and hurt or killed some one. But they could go back an sue the bartender and bar for serving him. Did anyone ever think about the reason we haven’t seen Tort Reform in this Country?

  9. avatar Ralph says:

    Tort reform, people. If the US had a “loser pays” system, this kind of bullsh1t lawsuit would never have been filed.

    1. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

      Ralph for SCOTUS !!!!

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        Thank you, but I have to pass on the basis of fashion sense. The only man who ever looked good in black was Johnny Cash.

        1. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

          I don’t think the court rules MANDATE black Ralph. I think you wearing a spiffy Red Robe would really be fly

        2. avatar Ralph says:

          Dirk, I was thinking along the lines of a slenderizing stripe. As for color, perhaps something in a pastel. And I just might go commando. Except I’m not sure that Elena Kagan would be able to contain herself.

    2. avatar Scrubula says:

      Only problem is that the winner of the suit might be inclined to rack up ridiculous fees to punish the loser.
      Otherwise, yeah, the loser should pay all court fees.

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Hey, if you know in advance you will win the action, whichever side you’re on, then the action should be unnecessary. So we’re talking intentional nuisance, run the costs up into the millions, until those giggling about what a nuisance they’re being go bankrupt at the end of the day. Loser pays is simply perfect under all circumstances. Our courts would become ghost towns, life would be sensible again. Especially if the law allows that if the losing party cannot pay all the costs, his attorneys have to pick up the difference.

    3. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

      Do they not have that already? Isn’t that how the NRA got paid (twice) by Chicago?

      1. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

        certain provisions exist for lawyers bringing civil rights claims against governments for certain violations.

  10. avatar Kevin L says:

    Cheers! Legit common sense rules the day instead of that bullshit “common sense” Watts and Bloomberg preach.

  11. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

    the victim’s brother testified the other week in front of the Senate Dem’s kabuki dance on “domestic violence” about this and how the guy got the gun. Only Chuck Grassley called out that no law or background check would have stopped an already illegal act. that simple fact did not resonate with the guy. clearly he was sympathetic, and he kept throwing out he was a gun owner/hunter to assert his 2A street cred/bona fides, but he kept insisting that mandating background checks (when it was already required in his sister’s case) would have made any difference. sad.

    1. avatar Delmarva Chip says:

      Hmmmm.

      “no law or background check would have stopped an already illegal act.”

      That’s the key point, ain’t it?

      Determined criminals and psychopaths are not going to obey the law. It doesn’t matter what law it is, whether it’s about background checks or magazine limits or prohibited models or whatever. They aren’t stopped by laws. They simply ignore them and/or find a way around them. This is what so many of the anti-gun folks (and some of the weaker pro-gun folks) appear to be incapable of understanding.

      The only thing that actually stops a determined violent criminal is for someone to use violence against the criminal. In other words, a would-be victim must be capable of defending him/herself.

      And the best way to do that, in many cases, is if the victim is armed with a firearm.

  12. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

    BTW – for those counting, Judge Sykes is the same one who gave us the Ezell v City of Chicago decision. I like her!

    http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCOURTS-ca7-10-03525

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Yeah, she was a George W. nominee. The George H.W.–Clinton–Obama nominees are not to be trusted.

  13. avatar Joe R. says:

    And in pursuing their cause for defense, necessitated by the lawsuit, they paid in blood to claw their way back to zero.

    Thank God for the ‘win’.

  14. avatar Wendy says:

    Hm. Plaintiff’s attorney must have been absent the day supervening intervening cause was covered in Torts…

  15. avatar Excedrine says:

    I bet the anti-rights gun controllers are really wringing their hands now, having lost two prominent cases against Armslist.

  16. avatar Anonymous says:

    A three-judge panel of the Chicago-based 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals has tossed a lawsuit against Armslist.com. The federal court ruled that the online private sales site is not liable for its users’ actions.

    Didn’t the owners of thePiratesBay also claim the same? Why didn’t their case pan out? Oh wait… RIAA/MPAA money to key officials in Sweden.

    Straight from the ATF’s website:

    What record-keeping procedures should be followed when two private individuals want to engage in a firearms transaction?
    When a transaction takes place between private (unlicensed) persons who reside in the same State, the Gun Control Act (GCA) does not require any record keeping. A private person may sell a firearm to another private individual in his or her State of residence and, similarly, a private individual may buy a firearm from another private person who resides in the same State. It is not necessary under Federal law for a Federal firearms licensee (FFL) to assist in the sale or transfer when the buyer and seller are “same-State” residents. Of course, the transferor/seller may not knowingly transfer a firearm to someone who falls within any of the categories of prohibited persons contained in the GCA. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g) and (n). However, as stated above, there are no GCA-required records to be completed by either party to the transfer.
    There may be State or local laws or regulations that govern this type of transaction. Contact State Police units or the office of your State Attorney General for information on any such requirements.
    Please note that if a private person wants to obtain a firearm from a private person who resides in another State, the firearm will have to be shipped to an FFL in the buyer’s State. The FFL will be responsible for record keeping. See also Question B3.

    As indicated above, if Benedict Ladera did not know the buyer was out of state or the buyer informed him he was of the same state, then Benedict Ladera should not be facing any charges. If Benedict Ladera opened his mouth and told everyone that he knew the guy was from a different state then I could see why the charges would be placed against him.

    In my opinion, Benedict Ladera is not responsibile for Smirnov’s actions, gun sale or not.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      Ladera shipped the weapon to the buyer in another state. It was not a face to face transaction. So yeah, he broke the law and spent time in jail for it. I don’t know if he was sued by the victim’s brother, although it would not surprise me.

      1. avatar Wendy says:

        Actually, according to the opinion, it as a face to face transaction. But the buyer/murderer didn’t live in the same state as the seller, and they didn’t go through a FFL to consummate the transaction. From the opinion:

        …Smirnov met Ladera in Seattle and purchased the firearm from him for $400. Federal law prohibits a private seller from directly transferring a firearm to a resident of another state or country. 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(5). The sale of the firearm was illegal because Smirnov lived outside the State of Washington. After Smirnov purchased the firearm, he returned to Chicago and began stalking Jitka. …

        1. avatar LarryinTX says:

          How is the seller supposed to know all this crap? When I was younger, I sold rifles and handguns to people on several occasions, particularly to other students at my college, which had students from all over the country. These stupid laws were not in effect then, but what about now? How many felons are hanging out in your kids’ dorms because of absurd laws which they knew nothing about? And I still have not heard whether the buyer was in any way a prohibited person, ie, was he buying this gun because it was cheap, or because he was unable to buy one closer to home?

        2. avatar DJ9 says:

          “How is the seller supposed to know all this crap?”
          Easy, Larry; you ask to see ID.

          I live in an area where folks from nearby more-gun-restrictive states, various college students, and Canada, will show up at our gun shows and try to buy guns F2F so there is no paper trail. On those rare instances when I choose to sell a gun, I tell all interested parties (as soon as they show interest) that I will need to see proof of residence in my state before I will sell to them. Some agree, some don’t, and I don’t lose any sleep over those that walk away. If they decide to buy, after the details are ironed-out, I tell them that I will need to see their ID, and record the ID number. I don’t care about their name, I don’t care about their address (other than the state); they can cover-up those areas on the ID when they show it to me. All I need is to see their photo on a piece of ID issued by my state, and the ID number. If the gun shows up at a crime scene in the future, and the cops show up at my door after a reverse trace points to me, I will give them a copy of the receipt with the ID number and send them on their merry way. It proves that I cared enough to verify residency before transferring the gun, and gives them the next target in their investigation. I also explain this carefully to potential buyers, telling them the info stays with me UNLESS the cops show up trying to trace a crime-connected gun; if so, they can expect a visit. I think this might prevent them from selling it to seedy folks down the road, as there is a potential paper trail that now ends at THEIR door.

          Yeah, I lose an occasional sale because of my policy, and I understand that it won’t stop someone who is ready to kill themselves after they kill someone else, but it helps me sleep a little better, knowing that I’ve made a good-faith effort to not contribute to the problem of scumbags on our streets with guns.

          To be clear, I would NOT support legislation forcing others to do what I do, but I will say this; if most gun owners did stuff like this on their own, there would be less pressure for legislation to force us to do stuff like this (and worse).

    2. avatar CGinTX says:

      I would imagine that putting the addressee’s state on the shipping label is a pretty clear indication that you’re sending to an out-of-state buyer. Unless Unadulterated Stupidity is a valid affirmative defense.

      1. avatar Don says:

        Read the court decision and the full article The sale was done face to face in Seattle

    3. avatar Wendy says:

      Ladera probably made the mistake of admitting to LE that he knew Smirnov was from a different state.

  17. avatar former water walker says:

    Good result. I don’t bother with Armslist in Illinois anyway. Besides 98% of the sellers thinking their crap is worth above retail Illinois made every sale mandatory background check and transfer. It’s like Craigslist only MORE dangerous…

  18. avatar Danny Griffin says:

    Court of Appeals? That means Armslist lost the lawsuit originally!

    1. avatar Delmarva Chip says:

      No. The district court had already said that Armslist could not be liable. The Appeals Court affirmed that ruling.

      Specifically, the decision said:

      The district court held that Armslist owed no duty to Jitka and therefore could not be liable for the actions of Smirnov. For the following reasons [the rest of the ruling], we affirm.

    2. avatar Wendy says:

      Delmarva Chip already addressed this, but in the trial court Armslist had filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The trial court granted Armslist’s motion and dismissed the case. The plaintiff (the victim’s brother and executor of her estate) appealed the dismissal. The appellate court affirmed the decision dismissing the case for failure to state a claim.

  19. avatar Herman Johnson says:

    I bet most of you do not know how some law suits work. These big Law Firms hire new graduates from law school, and sub them out to all these non-profit environmental groups. Now the tax payers have to pay for the lawyers for these Environmentalist groups. The Big Law Firms pay these lawyers any where from $150 per hour to $300 per hour. They then turn around and charge our Government $650 per billable hour. So when one of the environmental groups sue the Government, like over the spotted owl, or any other endangered species, We (the American Tax Payer) end up paying for the Lawyers on both sides. Sounds pretty good if you are a Lawyer, but it really bad knowing your tax dollar is being wasted this way.

  20. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    Stupid lawsuit. Armslist never invited criminal intent.

  21. avatar Marcus Aurelius Payne says:

    If this had gone the other way, then every state, city, and municipality would have to share liability for any crime committed where the criminal drive on public streets in order to commit a crime.

  22. avatar borg says:

    This is a good precedent that will help protect the lawful sales of firearms.

  23. avatar Jon says:

    Federal law prohibits the transfer of firearms to people in different states?! What kind of BS is that! Don’t you just need a FFL transfer? – Maybe someone can explain this, this is confusing me.

    ———————————–

    Where’s the best place to read up on private firearm sales/transfer law?

    1. avatar DJ9 says:

      As I understand it, Federal law prohibits the transfer of firearms from the resident of one state to a resident of another state UNLESS they are transferred through a FFL. Face2face or mail/shipping transfers between residents of two different states are illegal under Federal law. There also may be state laws that apply; I believe CA, for instance, requires all private/f2f transfers go through a FFL dealer, too (primarily for record-keeping and background check purposes). Note: I’m not a lawyer, and this is NOT legal advice; if you have any legal questions, get a lawyer to interpret this stuff along with your specific circumstances.

      You can read-up on Federal requirements at the ATF website, in the FAQ area(s).

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