NEW YORK – Everytown for Gun Safety, the country’s largest gun violence prevention organization, today filed an amicus brief highlighting the dangers of online gun sales without background checks and urging a Wisconsin court to allow a suit filed against Armslist.com by the family of Zina Daniel Haughton, who was fatally shot in 2012 in the Azana Spa shooting in Brookfield, Wisconsin, to move forward. Haughton’s husband was legally prohibited from owning a gun because he was subject to a domestic violence restraining order, but he was able to purchase one without a background check on Armslist.com, going on to kill Haughton and two of her colleagues.
The brief, prepared for Everytown by Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP urges the Wisconsin Court of Appeals for the Third District to reverse the Milwaukee County Circuit Court’s decision to dismiss the case under the Communications Decency Act. The brief draws on Everytown’s extensive research expertise to illustrate the dangerousness of unlicensed online gun sales conducted without a background check.
STATEMENT FROM ERIC TIRSCHWELL, LITIGATION DIRECTOR FOR EVERYTOWN FOR GUN SAFETY:
“Prohibited from having guns by state and federal law, felons and domestic abusers like Zina Daniel Haughton’s killer frequently turn to online marketplaces as a way to get their hands on a gun with no background check and no questions asked. These marketplaces should not be shielded from lawsuits seeking to hold them accountable where they facilitate this type of criminal conduct.”
Daniel v. Armslist is a case stemming from the tragic murder of Zina Daniel Haughton and two of her coworkers at the Azana Spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Haughton had obtained a domestic violence restraining order against her husband which prohibited him under state and federal law from buying or possessing a firearm, but just two days later he was able to use Armslist to arrange the purchase of a handgun from an unlicensed seller, with no background check and no questions asked, for $500 in the parking lot of a McDonalds. The next day he used the gun to kill Haughton and two of her coworkers and injure four others, before killing himself.
Zina Haughton’s estate, with the support of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, sued Armslist for negligently facilitating the sale. At the trial court level, the case was dismissed under an immunity provision in the Communications Decency Act. The act was originally intended to prevent libel suits against websites that allow users to publicly post.
The Everytown amicus brief presents Everytown’s research on the dangerousness of online gun marketplaces like Armslist that facilitate gun sales between strangers without a background check. Everytown’s research shows that these websites facilitate an enormous number of illegal firearms sales, with as many as 10 percent of online purchasers prohibited under state or federal law from possessing a firearm, and rates of domestic violence offenders seeking to purchase firearms 41 times higher than rates at licensed firearms dealers. The brief then goes on to discuss how the CDA should not negate Wisconsin’s common law negligence standard to protect a website facilitating these kinds of transactions.
The Kramer Levin legal team included Michael J. Dell and Karen S. Kennedy.