Supreme Court Gun Ruling Puts An Ax To ‘Straw’ Purchases
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Monday, June 16, to tighten restrictions on “straw” gun purchases wherein one party buys a gun on behalf of someone else, reports USA Today. This gun ruling upholds the decision made by two lower courts that too voted against “straw” purchases.
The Supreme Court case behind the ruling, Abramski v. United States, revolved around Bruce James Abramski, a former Virginia police officer who bought a Glock 19 pistol with a law enforcement discount and then sold it to his uncle, Angel Alvarez, who too is licensed to carry a weapon.
According to the Washington Times, though the transfer to Alvarez was properly coordinated through a federally licensed dealer, Abramski was nevertheless criminally charged twice by the government for making a false statement, as he had identified himself as the “actual buyer” during the initial purchase.
This is relevant because the purchase form he filled out and signed while buying the gun specifically contained the following sentences:
“You are not the actual buyer if you are acquiring the firearm(s) on behalf of another person. If you are not the actual buyer, the dealer cannot transfer the firearms(s) to you.”
The Legal Information Institute notes that he then responded by filing a motion to have the charges dismissed. After having his motions denied by the federal district court, he tried and failed again with the Fourth Circuit. He then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court via a writ of certiorari, but it turns out that they too disagreed with him. Mind you, the ruling was not easily reached.
Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan argued that Abramski’s failure to properly identify the actual owner could not be overlooked, regardless of the fact that he was a former law enforcement officer:
“No piece of information is more important under federal firearms law than the identity of a gun’s purchaser — the person who acquires a gun as a result of a transaction with a licensed dealer.”
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia vehemently disagreed with her perspective on the basis that the gun transfer would have been perfectly legal if the gun had been given as a gift – or even if it had been raffled off to some random person:
“What the scenarios described above show is that the statute typically is concerned only with the man at the counter, even where that man is in a practical sense a ‘conduit’ who will promptly transfer the gun to someone else… If I give my son $10 and tell him to pick up milk and eggs at the store, no English speaker would say that the store ‘sells’ the milk and eggs to me.”
The bickering between Supreme Court justices continued back and forth for a while, but ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled against Abramski. By making this ruling, they delivered a huge victory to gun control advocates like Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Violence:
“This is a very big and very positive decision that will save lives by keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”
Guns rights activists like Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, were not as cheery about the ruling:
“The government’s out of control, and all three branches are united against the people and the Constitution.”
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