BREAKING: Supreme Court Ruled on Gun Rights Case Today – What Does it Mean For You?

June 16 2014
by GSL Staff
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The Supreme Court issued an opinion in Abramski vs United States. The case has to do with straw purchases of firearms. The case a 5-4 split decision against Abramski.

In this case, Abramski’s uncle gave him $400 to purchase a Glock handgun using Abramski’s law enforcement discount. Both Abramski and his uncle are allowed to own firearms and all laws were followed.

The form required to buy firearms from a licensed firearms dealer is Form 4473. The line in question reads:

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. (See Instructions for Question 11.a.) Exception: If you are picking up a repaired firearm(s) for another person, you are not required to answer 11.a. and may proceed to question 11.b.

Abramski answered “Yes” to this question even though he knew he was using funds provided by his uncle for the purchase and would immediately transfer the gun to his uncle.

It has long been a position held by the government that firearms purchased as gifts are completely fine. From the ATF’s documentation about Form 4473 [emphasis mine]:

Question 11.a. Actual Transferee/Buyer: For purposes of this form, you are the actual transferee/buyer if you are purchasing the firearm for yourself or otherwise acquiring the firearm for yourself (e.g., redeeming the firearm from pawn/retrieving it from consignment, firearm raffle winner). You are also the actual transferee/buyer if you are legitimately purchasing the firearm as a gift for a third party. ACTUAL TRANSFEREE/BUYER EXAMPLES: Mr. Smith asks Mr. Jones to purchase a firearm for Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith gives Mr. Jones the money for the firearm. Mr. Jones is NOT THE ACTUAL TRANS- FEREE/BUYER of the firearm and must answer “NO” to question 11.a. The licensee may not transfer the firearm to Mr. Jones. However, if Mr. Brown goes to buy a firearm with his own money to give to Mr. Black as a present, Mr. Brown is the actual transferee/buyer of the firearm and should answer “YES” to question 11.a. However, you may not transfer a firearm to any person you know or have reasonable cause to believe is prohibited under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), (n), or (x). Please note: EXCEPTION: If you are picking up a repaired firearm(s) for another person, you are not required to answer 11.a. and may proceed to question 11.b.

The government argues that since Abramski was not purchasing a gift for this uncle that he made false statements by answering Question 11a in the affirmative.

Abramski argues that the intent of the law was to prevent people who were eligible to purchase firearms from purchasing them for ineligible persons. However, the court doesn’t seem to have ruled that way. In the eyes of the Supreme Court, if money changes hands, it’s a straw purchase, even if both parties are eligible to own a firearm and even if you transfer the firearm to the second party through an FFL transfer.

While this ruling doesn’t seem to affect gifts, it could have some impact on the private gun market. If you purchase a firearm from a gun shop, have instant buyer’s remorse, decide you don’t like it, and sell it within a couple of days, I could see a situation where an overly ambitious prosecutor could attempt to make the case that you bought the gun with the intent on selling it. Hopefully, they would lose that case, but it’s a concern worth noting in my opinion.

Abramski was backed by gun rights organizations including the National Rifle Asssociation who were hoping that the case would result in more freedom when purchasing firearms.

According to the Wall Street Journal,

The ruling 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 didn’t 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.

In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said the language of the law doesn’t support making it a crime for one lawful gun owner to buy a gun for another lawful gun owner.

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