Armslist, an online peer-to-peer firearms dealer, was sued on Thursday by a Boston police officer allegedly shot by a convicted felon with a gun purchased on the platform. The officer, Kurt Stokinger, argued in the complaint that the website acted negligently.
Grant Headley, who allegedly shot him, and Sara Johnson, who sold Headley the firearm on Armslist, were also named as defendants in the lawsuit, filed Oct. 18 in Massachusetts Superior Court. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun control organization, is suing on behalf of the officer and his wife, Janella, with the help of New York-based law firm Blank Rome LLP and the Massachusetts-based law firm Crowe & Mulvey LLP.
During a drug-focused police investigation in January 2016, Headley allegedly shot Stokinger in the leg using a .40 caliber Glock he purchased from Johnson, according to a copy of the complaint. Headley had a prior felony conviction, according to prosecutors, which should have barred him from owning a firearm.
“Armslist chose to establish an online firearms marketplace when it was well aware of the grave, foreseeable risk that it would arm criminals and facilitate illegal acts,” according to the complaint. “While other online gun companies have instituted safeguards to make it more likely that guns are sold legally and responsibility, Armslist has done the opposite.”
Counts against Armslist include negligence, aiding and abetting tortious conduct, and public nuisance. The complaint didn’t specify the damages being sought. Private gun sales such as those completed on Armslist, however, don’t require background checks. The platform facilitates sales that don’t require these checks, the complaint states.
A request for comment sent through the Armslist website was not returned.
Jon Gibbon was inspired to found Armslist in 2007 after Craigslist banned firearms advertisements, according to a 2010 interview with the website Bearing Arms. The company doesn’t require gun seekers to create an account, unlike some competitors, which can demand photo identification. The website’s terms and conditions note that users are prohibited from using the platform for illegal purposes, however. The terms also include a claim that Armslist is indemnified from the actions of its users.
Johnson, the original gun owner, was sentenced on Sept. 24 to 18 months in federal court in Concord, N.H. Headley was indicted on a variety of charges in Massachusetts Superior Court, including armed assault with intent to murder, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. He pleaded not guilty. An attorney who represented Headley when he was indicted did not return a request for comment.
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