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Supreme Court Cracks Down on Straw Purchases of Guns

June 17, 2014

A divided Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the government can strictly enforce a ban on purchasing a firearm for someone else, even if the other individual is lawfully allowed to own a gun.  Regardless of whether or not the other person is entitled to have a gun, this type of transaction is known as a “straw purchase” and conflicts with the lawfulness of a gun sale.  Because a gun purchase requires personal information, photo identification, and a background check, buying a gun with the intention of selling it to another person is a misrepresentation of the identity of the actual gun owner.

The case involved Bruce Abramski, a Virginia man and former police officer who was sentenced to five years probation for purchasing a $400 Glock handgun for his uncle in Pennsylvania, even though his uncle would have been lawfully able to purchase a gun himself.  However, because Abramski failed to disclose that he was not the actual purchaser of the weapon, the sale was not lawful.  Monday’s decision makes it clear that circumventing any part of the required purchase process is illegal; gun control advocates are hopeful that this ruling will help ensure that guns do not end up in the hands of dangerous people.

“The firearms law contemplates that the dealer will check not the fictitious purchaser’s but instead the true purchaser’s identity and eligibility for gun ownership,” Justice Elena Kagan said, in writing the majority opinion. “By concealing that Alvarez was the actual buyer, Abramski prevented the dealer from transacting with Alvarez face-to-face, recording his name, age, and residence, inspecting his photo ID, submitting his identifying information to the background check system, and determining whether he was prohibited from receiving a firearm.”

If you have questions about this change or any other concerns regarding your rights, please call HoganWillig at 716-636-7600.