Major Victory in Case Against Gun-Selling Website

Manatt played an important role in a case that will have major implications for gun sales over the Internet. Working pro bono with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Wisconsin law firm Cannon & Dunphy, partner Jacqueline Wolff and counsel Sam Katze led the Manatt team in a lawsuit against Armslist.com over the sale of a gun that was used in a mass shooting in Wisconsin.

On April 19, the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin unanimously held that Armslist, the largest online gun market, can be held liable for negligently facilitating illegal gun purchases through its website. This is the first decision by a court holding that Armslist can be held liable. The court reversed a decision by the trial court, which had determined the federal Communications Decency Act barred the case.

The case was brought on behalf of Yasmeen Daniel, whose mother was killed in a mass shooting at a Wisconsin spa, in which a gun bought through a listing on Armslist was used. The gun was purchased by a prohibited purchaser who was able to evade a background check because the sale occurred through a private seller.


“People across the spectrum on gun issues should applaud this decision,” said Wolff in a press release. “It essentially reinforces existing law; that is, you cannot facilitate the purchase of guns by particularly dangerous people, like convicted felons, persons with domestic abuse restraining orders and those designated mentally ill.”

The complaint alleges that Armslist entered the online gun business after Craigslist, Amazon and other websites stopped allowing gun sales because of the danger that prohibited people would obtain them. Guns sold through Armslist have been tied to previous crimes, including the murder of Jitka Vesel in Chicago, which led to an unsuccessful suit against Armslist.

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