MILLER: Supreme Court to decide if buying a gun for a lawful person is a ‘straw purchase’

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The Supreme Court decided Tuesday to hear the case of a Virginia man who bought a gun for his uncle and was then convicted of committing a “straw purchase.” The high court will determine whether it is a crime to buy a gun with the intent to resell to another lawful person. 

Arguments for Abramski v. United States will take place in January.  Bruce Abramski, a retired police officer, bought a handgun for his elderly uncle because he could get it at discount as former law enforcement. Mr. Abramski checked the box on the federal background check form that said he was the “actual buyer.”


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Under federal law, handgun sales across state lines have to go through a federal firearms licensee. So, after buying the firearm in Virginia, Mr. Abramski drove to gun store in his uncle’s hometown in Pennsylvania. His uncle filled out the federal background check forms, paid fees and the transfer was approved.

However, ATF pursued the case against Mr. Abramski for saying he was the “actual buyer” in the original sale.  

The federal law on “straw purchases” is intended to stop a criminal from having someone who is not a felon, drug user or other miscreant that would get blocked on an FBI background check to buy a gun for him. The buyer, or “straw man,” could then be charged with perjury for lying about the identity of the of the actual purchaser. 

The issue in the Abramski case is whether this should apply when a lawful person buys a gun for someone who is legally allowed to own a firearm. 

The case could affect future rulings on so-called universal background checks, which requires government approval for private exchanges of firearms. President Obama has pushed to make this a federal law, but he was unable to get enough votes in the Senate to pass it this year. Several states like Colorado and New York are being sued for this same requirement. 

Second Amendment groups warn that “universal background checks” are really intended to create a national gun registry so the government knows who owns every gun in the U.S.

The high court has not taken up a major Second Amendment case since McDonald v. Chicago in 2010 which overturned Chicago’s gun ban and established the individual right to keep arms in the states.

It ought to rule in the Abramski case that it is fully lawful to buy a gun for another legal individual. 

Ostensibly, gun-control laws are intended to make us safer. There is no reason to waste law enforcement resources to go after law-abiding people exchanging firearms. 

Emily Miller is a senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times and author of “Emily Gets Her Gun” (Regnery, 2013).

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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