Supreme Court rules on 'straw purchaser' law

Justices rule 5-4 that government can ban buying guns for sole purpose of giving to someone else
Associated Press
Jun 16, 2014

 

A divided Supreme Court sided with gun control groups and the Obama administration Monday, ruling that the federal government can strictly enforce laws that ban a "straw" purchaser from buying a gun for someone else.

The justices ruled 5-4 that the law applied to a Virginia man who bought a gun with the intention of transferring it to his uncle in Pennsylvania — even though the uncle is not prohibited from owning firearms.

The decision split the court along familiar ideological lines, though it has no direct bearing on the Second Amendment right to own guns. It settles a split among appeals courts over federal gun laws intended to prevent sham buyers from obtaining guns for the sole purpose of giving them to another person. The laws were part of Congress' effort to make sure firearms did not get into the hands of unlawful recipients.

Writing for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan said the federal government's elaborate system of background checks and record-keeping requirements help law enforcement investigate crimes by tracing guns to their buyers. Those provisions would mean little, she said, if a would-be gun buyer could evade them by simply getting another person to buy the gun and fill out the paperwork.

"Putting true numbskulls to one side, anyone purchasing a gun for criminal purposes would avoid leaving a paper trail by the simple expedient of hiring a straw," Kagan said.

Her opinion was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is often considered the court's swing vote, as well as liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said the language of the law does not support making it a crime for one lawful gun owner to buy a gun for another lawful gun owner. He was joined by the court's other conservatives — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

The case began after Bruce James Abramski, Jr. bought a Glock 19 handgun in Collinsville, Virginia, in 2009 and later transferred it to his uncle in Easton, Pennsylvania. Abramski, a former police officer, had assured the Virginia dealer he was the "actual buyer" of the weapon even though he had already offered to buy the gun for his uncle using his expired police identification to get a discount.

Abramski purchased the gun three days after his uncle had written him a check for $400 with "Glock 19 handgun" written in the memo line. During the transaction, Abramski answered "yes" on a federal form asking "Are you the actual transferee buyer of the firearm(s) listed on this form? Warning: 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 firearm(s) to you."

Police later arrested Abramski after they thought he was involved in a bank robbery in Rocky Mount, Virginia. No charges were ever filed on the bank robbery, but officials charged him with making false statements about the purchase of the gun.

A federal district judge rejected Abramski's argument that he was not a straw purchaser because his uncle was eligible to buy firearms, and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.

The Obama administration had argued that accepting Abramski's defense would impair the ability of law enforcement officials to trace firearms involved in crimes and keep weapons away from people who are not eligible to buy them.

"This is a very big and very positive decision that will save lives by keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The National Rifle Association sided with Abramski, asserting that the government wrongly interpreted the law and improperly expanded the scope of gun regulations. Twenty-six states also submitted a brief supporting Abramski's view of the law, while nine states and Washington, D.C., filed papers bolstering the Obama administration.

Scalia scoffed at the majority's reading of the law, noting that if Abramski intended to buy the gun as a gift or to use as a raffle prize, the government would consider him the true buyer.

"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," Scalia said.

Kagan responded with her own analogy: "If I send my brother to the Apple Store with money and instructions to purchase an iPhone, and then take immediate and sole possession of that device, am I the 'person' (or 'transferee') who has bought the phone or is he? Nothing in ordinary English usage compels an answer either way."

 

Comments

mikeylikesit

if you want a gun, move to mexico and start selling drugs. the u.s. government will be more than happy to supply all your gun needs!

The Big Dog's back

Adios then Amigo. Don't let the door hit you where the good lord split you.

mikeylikesit

im staying right here pup, and im keeping my guns..

Truth2u

How ironic that the biggest fan of oBOZO gets on Mike while its oBOZO that DID give guns to the drug cartels, which is known as Obama's fast and Furious. But of course you don't read all the news do you, only the lefts propaganda which eulogizes your King and Master who can do no wrong.

Stop It

He just reads headlines. He doesn't need those paragraphs to get in the way.

freespeech1

No he just looks at the pictures, we all know puppy is too ignorant to read or comprehend anything.

Wjones44

But it's ok for Obama and Holder to do it?

Erie County Resident

So when is the DOJ and Holder going to do their job and arrest Gabby Giffords husband???

freethinker1

Thank you, Supreme Court for doing what the vast majority of Americans want. Thank you for making America a little bit safer.

Donegan

Safer from what? Drug cartels or countless terrorist groups being armed by this gov?
The hypocrisy of you people is amazing.

wasthere

Well Donegan, you know he's only a "freethinker" as long as you think like he does. I hope that never happens to you.

Darwin's choice

Freethinker1....do you mean safe like this?

"CHICAGO ERUPTS IN VIOLENCE OVER FATHERS DAY WEEKEND: 2 DEAD 25 SHOT"

Do you mean like that, democratic chicago, where you cannot buy a gun? obama's hometown? I'll bet the great citizens feel safe knowing that self righteous people, such as yourself, have their best interest at heart.

Dr. Information

Don't forget the dumbazz from CA that voted for gun control yet was running his own illegal gun ring..