CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA) and the Wisconsin Medical Society filed an amicus brief (PDF) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit asserting that the owners of an online marketplace designed to facilitate illegal gun sales to prohibited buyers cannot escape liability for human harm resulting from preventable firearm violence.
The case of Webber v. Armslist (PDF) focuses on the murder of Sara Schmidt, whose estranged husband shot and killed her with a handgun he purchased through the Armslist website while he was under a court restraining order that prohibited him from purchasing or possessing guns. Accordingly, he could not have passed a background check required for legal gun ownership under federal or Wisconsin law; however, the Armslist website is specifically created to facilitate illegal gun sales by persons, such as Sara’s husband, who could not pass a background check.
The physician brief, prepared by the Litigation Center of the AMA and State Medical Societies, contends that Armslist’s common law negligence was a “substantial factor” in causing the murder, and that it cannot be sound policy to favor a scheme that subverts, rather than supports, statutory law and the court restraining order.
“In light of the serious dangers to public health that arise from the proliferation of illegal weapons and in view of the expectable consequences of the defendants’ website design, it would not have unduly burdened them to make the modest adjustments—as articulated in the complaint—needed to protect against unlawful sales and keep the website on the right side of the law,” the amici write in their brief.
“From treating patients and losing patients, and from the sheer volume and scope of firearm-related injuries and death, physicians in every corner of our country—in small towns and big cities—recognize that gun violence is a public health crisis,” said AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, M.D. “As physicians, we often carry the emotional weight of telling families when their loved ones are killed. We also bear the responsibility of healing and treating gun violence victims and telling patients their wounds are forever—their scars, paralysis, brain injuries, depression, colostomies and more. The AMA supports commonsense measures to prevent injuries and death from gun violence, and a perfect place to start is holding accountable a website designed to subvert the law and funnel dangerous weapons into the hands of dangerous people.”
To read more about the AMA’s sweeping set of commonsense measures aimed at reducing the toll of firearm deaths and injuries in the U.S, visit the AMA website.
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