Supreme Court Ruling Against “Straw” Gun Purchases

On June 16, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued an opinion in a widely discussed case involving the purchase of guns. Specifically, the case, Abramski v. United States, addresses “straw purchases” of guns. A straw purchase means that someone purchases a gun on another person’s behalf, but represents himself as the true buyer. The decision held that such a purchase is not legal under 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6), and everyone should be aware of the very serious consequences of this offense.

What is the Law?

When you buy a gun from a federally licensed dealer, that dealer is required to verify your identity and perform a background check. This ensures that you are not banned from owning a firearm due to felonies, mental illness, substance abuse problems, or any other reason.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6), it is unlawful to knowingly make a false statement to the dealer or on the application for a firearm. The form also tells applicants the following: “Warning: you are not the actual buyer if you are acquiring the firearm on behalf of another person. If you are not the actual buyer, the dealer cannot transfer the firearm to you.”

In the case in question, a former police officer thought he could use his law enforcement discount to purchase a firearm for his uncle. His uncle was eligible to lawfully purchase a gun himself, but agreed to let his nephew make the purchase for him. The nephew held himself out as the buyer of the gun and then traded the gun to his uncle for $400.

Law enforcement discovered the details surrounding the sale through a separate investigation, and the nephew received a five year prison sentence for violating the law by falsely stating that he was the actual buyer of the weapon. He appealed, stating that he should not be punished because his uncle would have been eligible for the purchase on his own.

The Supreme Court disagreed with his argument and upheld the prison sentence by a vote of 5-4. Justice Kagan reasoned in her majority opinion that allowing straw purchases would go against the spirit of law by making criminal investigations more difficult and allowing weapons to find the hands of ineligible owners. Even eligible gun owners could avoid a paper trail if they were planning to use a gun to commit a crime.

Familiarize Yourself with Gun Laws

Gun charges can be extremely serious on either the state or federal level. If you are purchasing a gun, you should always be fully aware of all of the applicable laws of Chicago, the state of Illinois, and the United States as a whole, and make sure you are in compliance with those laws.

If you do find yourself facing any gun or weapon-related charges, you should not delay in contacting an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney at Goldman & Associates as soon as possible. Attorney Steven Goldman knows how to aggressively defend gun charges, as well as any other type of charge.

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