U.S. Supreme Court deals blow to gun lobby Purchasers must report who will own gun

Posted: June 16, 2014 in Guns in America, U.S. Supreme Court
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Captain Rick: The Supreme Court dealt a rare blow to the gun lobby Monday by ruling that purchasers of guns must report when they are buying firearms for other people…called ‘straw purchases’.

This US Supreme Court decision does not revise any law. However, it establishes a very important interpretation of what the US Congress implied in gun laws it established in previous decades…that Congress sought to identify the ultimate gun purchaser. This Supreme Court ruling will have profound effect on future law cases that involve guns used for murder that were in hands of those that were not identified as the purchaser. It will ‘open the door’ for the listed purchaser to be prosecuted when the gun is gifted to another who uses it to commit murder.  


Supreme Court Ruling Details

The 5-4 decision upheld two lower courts that had ruled against so-called straw purchasers, even though the justices acknowledged that Congress left loopholes in gun control laws passed in the 1960s and 1990s.

For gun purchasers to be allowed to buy from licensed dealers without reporting the actual final owners of the firearms, the justices said, would make little sense.

“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,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the slim majority.

Kagan, a New Yorker who acknowledged during her 2010 confirmation hearings that she was not very familiar with guns, was opposed by four conservative justices, led by Justice Antonin Scalia — who famously has taken her hunting on several occasions.

“No piece of information is more important under federal firearms law than the identity of a gun’s purchaser — the person who acquires a gun as a result of a transaction with a licensed dealer,” Kagan said.

During oral arguments in the case in January, she had noted that without such a finding, “it does not matter whether the ultimate transferee was Al Capone or somebody else.”

Scalia’s dissent for the court’s conservatives — not including Justice Anthony Kennedy, who provided the swing vote — was scathing.

“The court makes it a federal crime for one lawful gun owner to buy a gun for another lawful gun owner,” he said. “Whether or not that is a sensible result, the statutes Congress enacted do not support it.”

The straw purchaser in the case was a former Virginia police officer who bought a Glock 19 handgun for his uncle in Pennsylvania. Both were legal gun owners. But the purchaser, Bruce James Abramski, filled out a federal form indicating that he was the “actual buyer” of the firearm.

His attorney, Richard Dietz, argued that a compromise reached in Congress decades ago was meant to focus only on the initial buyer. Even if it did intend to identify the ultimate purchaser, he said, Abramski didn’t violate the law because his uncle was licensed to own guns.

“Congress didn’t use terms like ‘true buyer’ or ‘true purchaser’ or ‘actual buyer’ because they are not concerned about the ultimate recipients of firearms or what happens to a gun after it leaves the gun store,” Dietz said.

The Justice Department, seeking to uphold the two lower court rulings against Abramski, argued that Congress always sought to identify the ultimate gun purchasers but did not want to intrude on private transactions.

But Scalia ridiculed the majority’s assertion that under federal firearms laws, the uncle — not Abramski — was the true purchaser of the gun. “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,” he said.

Gun control advocates were delighted with the decision. “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.

It was the second ruling from the conservative court this term that went against the gun lobby. In March, the justices ruled unanimously that a federal law intended to keep guns away from domestic violence offenders can apply even if their crime was nothing more than “offensive touching.”


Report details: Richard Wolf, USA Today

Photo: Steve Helber, AP

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  1. Bret says:

    There is no change to the law here. You have never been able to legally purchase a firearm for a prohibitted possessor. (straw purchase). You are, however, able to purchase a firearm and gift it. In this case, you are the actual possessor. You can legally gift or even sell the firearm to another legal fireams owner and that is not considered a straw purchase. It is no different than purchasing tobacco or alcohol, except that it is a federal offense.Once again, this does nothing but keep our polititians and lawyers employed.

    • atridim says:

      Hi Bret,
      I think this US Supreme court ruling goes a bit farther than what you mention. Purchasers will have to identify who they are purchasing the gun for. It could also facilitate legislation for penalties for those who gift a gun. I think the intent of this ruling is to develop a means to prosecute those who allow guns to filtrate into the hands of those that should not possess them. I see that as a good intention. How do you see it?
      Thanks for your comment.
      Captain Rick

      • Rusdon Ray says:

        God can judge you on your intensions, but in politics we must judge on actions and results. Here is the basic principle historical results of gun registration. (remember – nearly all the recent mass shootings have happened in gun free zones. It’s not just a coincidence. Criminals love easy targets.)

        “The holy grail of the anti self defense and anti rights special interest groups is gun registration. This is because once your gun is required to be registered, it is in effect, already confiscated. Only a little thought will reveal to you why this is so. The Government will know who has legal possession of each firearm. They will know where the firearm is stored. When physical possession of the gun is desired, they can order you to turn it in. This has happened repeatedly. The historical examples include NAZI Germany, Soviet Russia, Red China, and Cambodia. Recent examples include Kosovo, Great Britian, Australia, New York, and California. Not having possession of the firearm registered to you can be grounds for criminal action. If you have reported the gun stolen, and it is then found in your possession, you can be charged with obstruction of justice.

        The common practice, once guns are required to be registered, is to gradually tighten the requirements of registration to reduce the number of gun owners. When the number is low enough to limit effective political action by the members of the gun culture affected, the remaining guns can be confiscated with little effort.

        The only purpose of gun registration is gun confiscation, whether it is done individually and piecemeal, as the legal requirements to own a gun become more and more difficult, or en mass, when the government feels the necessity to disarm its citizens in order to further its control.

        Governments that push for gun registration distrust their people, and have earned the people’s distrust.”

  2. Battlefield USA says:

    Having said that, let me answer a question that I have been asked repeatedly over the last 24 hours. Abramski did not affect the legality of buying a firearm as a gift. The ATF has repeatedly held that a buyer purchasing a firearm as a bona fide gift is the actual buyer of the firearm. In fact, it specifically states this on page 4 of the 4473 form that a buyer completes when purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer.


    • atridim says:

      Battlefield USA,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I encourage my followers to read the legal analysis via the link at the bottom of your comment.
      Captain Rick

  3. atridim says:

    Hi Rusdon,
    Thanks for your excellent comment. It presents important things to think about.
    Captain Rick

  4. atridim says:

    Captain Rick: The world works much better when we all work together.
    Thanks Brittius for your reblog of my post:

  5. atridim says:

    U.S. Constitutional Free Press,
    The world works much better when we all work together.
    Thanks for your reblog of my post: http://usconstitutionalfreepress.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/u-s-supreme-court-deals-blow-to-gun-lobby-purchasers-must-report-who-will-own-gun/
    Captain Rick

  6. atridim says:

    After additional research, I have added the following to leading text in this post:

    This US Supreme Court decision does not revise any law. However, it establishes a very important interpretation of what the US Congress implied in gun laws it established in previous decades…that Congress sought to identify the ultimate gun purchaser. This Supreme Court ruling will have profound effect on future law cases that involve guns used for murder that were in hands of those that were not identified as the purchaser. It will ‘open the door’ for the listed purchaser to be prosecuted when the gun is gifted to another who uses it to commit murder.

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