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Wisconsin Ruling Allows Lawsuit Against Online Gun Sales

FILE - Sales associate Mike Conway, right, shows Paul Angulo a semiautomatic rifle at Bullseye Sport gun shop in Riverside, Calif., Dec. 9, 2015. Guns can be bought online without a background check.

An appeals court in the Midwestern U.S. state of Wisconsin has ruled that a firearms trading website can be held liable for negligence for facilitating the purchase of a gun that is subsequently used in a shooting.

In 2012, a restraining order prohibited Radcliffe Haughton from possessing a gun. He purchased one, however, through Armslist, a firearms trading site. He used that gun to kill his wife and two of her co-workers in Brookfield, Wisconsin. He also wounded four people, before killing himself.

The three-judge panel ruled Thursday that a federal law that shields website operators from liability for user content does not apply to Armslist LLC, the operator of

The ruling opens the way for a daughter of a woman killed in the 2012 shooting to sue the Armslist operator.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed the lawsuit against Armslist.

“With one in five guns sold today without a background check — many through online sales on sites like Armslist — today’s decision is a significant one toward saving lives,” Kris Brown, co-president of the Brady Center, said in a statement.