September 16, 2014 5:01 pm
Updated: September 16, 2014 5:03 pm

Online ammo sellers sued over Colorado theatre shooting

This June 4, 2013 file photo shows Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes in court in Centennial, Colo.

Andy Cross / AP Photo

Two years after a 16×9 expose demonstrated the ease of buying guns online in the United States, a prominent American gun-control group has announced it is suing online sellers of ammunition and equipment in connection with a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theatre in 2012.

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The shooting, during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, left 12 people dead and dozens more injured.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed the lawsuit on behalf of Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was killed in the massacre.

“Two years ago when our daughter Jessica was murdered, and we first heard the details of the massacre, I asked my husband: ‘How can anyone order over 4,000 rounds of ammunition without raising any red flags? Why weren’t any questions asked of the person who bought all of this ammunition?” said Sandy Phillips.

The suit alleges that sold the gunman James Holmes more than 4,000 rounds of ammunition; that “The Sportsman’s Guide” sold Holmes a 100 round drum ammunition magazine and 700 rounds; that sold Holmes multiple pieces of body armor; and that BTP Arms solid him two canisters of tear gas.

Profile: Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes

The lawsuit alleges the defendants were negligent in allegedly selling Holmes supplies used to carry out the mass shooting.

“A crazed, homicidal killer should not be able to amass a military arsenal, without showing his face or answering a single question, with the simple click of a mouse,” said Jonathan Lowy, director of the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and co-counsel for Sandy and Lonnie Phillips. “If businesses choose to sell military-grade equipment online, they must screen purchasers to prevent arming people like James Holmes. Sandy and Lonnie Phillips have brought this lawsuit to make sellers of lethal arms and military equipment use reasonable care.”

Holmes is currently awaiting trial, charged with 24 counts of first degree murder, and 116 counts of attempted murder.

Thousands of U.S.-based websites sell firearms and accessories with no background checks or paper trail, taking advantage of the so-called “private seller loophole”. In 2013, 16×9 brought viewers the chilling story of a Canadian who murdered a Chicago woman with a gun he purchased from an online marketplace in Washington state, despite laws prohibiting firearms sales to non-U.S. citizens.

“It’s the click of a mouse, you can get a gun, you can get a military-style assault weapon, no questions asked, even if you are prohibited from buying guns and could not get a gun from a licensed gun dealer,” Lowy told 16×9. “That makes no sense.”

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