The Supreme Court rarely takes up Second Amendment cases, so when it does, gun owners know their rights are in the cross hairs.
The Abramski ruling will be key to determining how far President Obama can push his gun-control agenda. Mr. Obama wants to expand background checks to include private transactions so that the government would know exactly who has a gun. That is not what the Founding Fathers intended.
On Wednesday, the high court heard oral arguments in Bruce J. Abramskiv. United States. The justices will decide whether to overturn an appeals court decision that said Mr. Abramski broke federal straw purchasing laws when he bought a gun with the intent to resell it to his elderly uncle, even though neither man is prohibited from ownership.
The court will have to reconcile conflicting rulings in lower appeals courts on whether a gun purchaser’s intent to ever transfer a gun in the future to a legal person is relevant in the background check at the time of purchase.
Mr. Abramski, a former police officer, bought the firearm in his home state of Virginia in 2009 because he could get a good price as former law enforcement.
His uncle, Angel Alvarez, sent a check for $400 with the note “Glock 19 handgun” in the memo line. Mr. Abramski called three licensed firearms dealers in advance to ensure he did the transaction lawfully.
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At the store, Mr. Abramski filled out the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) background check form No. 4473. Question 11a reads: “Are you the actual transferee/buyer of the firearm(s) listed on this form?”
Mr. Abramski checked the “yes” box. If he had checked “no,” he would not have been allowed to buy the gun. He passed the National Instant Background Check (NICS) and left the store with the pistol.
The next day, Mr. Abramski met his uncle at a gun dealer in Pennsylvania. Mr. Alvarez filled out the same NICS background check and passed. The two men filled out forms with the dealer to transfer ownership of the firearm.
No crime was committed with this firearm, but the ATF charged Mr. Abramski for perjuring himself on the background check for saying he was the “actual buyer.” The feds also charged him with not telling the first dealer that he planned to give the gun to his uncle.
Justice Antonin Scalia was the most ardent in pointing out that the government was out of bounds in its pursuit of Mr. Abramski.
“What about somebody who is qualified to own a firearm? Can I take a firearm that I own and say, ‘You know, it’s yours?’” Justice Scalia asked the plaintiff’s attorney, who confirmed that it was lawful.
He continued, “Don’t have to register it? I don’t have to go through a firearm dealer, right? It’s my gun, and I can give it to somebody else who’s qualified.”
The federal government is deliberately twisting the intent of a congressional statute to lure more people into its web.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 was intended to stop prohibited people —such as felons, drug users, the severely mentally ill and domestic abusers — from getting firearms. Congress deliberately did not attempt to control transfers between people who are lawfully allowed to have a gun.
The assistant to the solicitor general, Joseph Palmore, admitted to the court that the ATF was “interpreting” the will of Congress when it added the “actual buyer” question in 1995 on the background form.
Mr. Palmore said the other “critical” purposes of the ATF’s agenda with determining the final buyer was “tracing of firearms and to prevent the anonymous stockpiling of firearms.” Uncle Sam is not supposed to be getting involved in a citizen’s decision to buy as many guns as he decides he wants to defend himself.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. seemed to side with the plaintiff’s position that the ATF had overstepped into trying to create criminal law. Referring to the Gun Control Act, the chief justice said, “This language is fought over tooth and nail by people on the gun-control side and the gun-ownership side.”
He called it “very problematic” for the government to cite going after law abiding people who resell firearms as a purpose of the law since “there are no words in the statute that have anything to do with straw purchasers.”
Mr. Obama and his gun-grabbing cohorts invented the vanilla-sounding “universal background check” to disguise their agenda to control every firearm transaction in the country.
Dan Gross, the president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told reporters last week that if Abramski is overturned, it would “open a vast loophole in the background check law.” That is pure fear-mongering to coerce people into willingly give up their rights.
There is no reason for the government to prevent, much less prosecute,a former member of law enforcement from buying a gun for his law-abiding uncle. The Supreme Court should overturn the appeals court, but more importantly, make clear that the government has no right to intervene in private gun transfers between honest American citizens.
The ultimate purpose of the Second Amendment, the prevention of tyranny, depends on the government not having a registry or knowing who is armed.
Emily Miller is senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times and author of “Emily Gets Her Gun” (Regnery, 2013).