That’s not a straw purchase

In three different articles about Mayor Bloomberg’s lawsuit against Adventure Outdoors (the last dealer left standing in Bloomie’s first lawsuit), two out of three major media outlets don’t actually know what a straw purchase is.  The New York Times and Reuters both have misleading information up on what defines a straw purchase.

NYT: …[Bloomberg’s investigators] bought weapons in illegal “straw purchases” — those in which one person submits to a background check for a gun to be used by someone else.

Reuters: The city has accused dealers like Wallace of allowing “straw purchases,” a transaction where one person shops for a gun and then has someone else fill out the required federal forms to pass a background check.

Close, but no cigar.  An actual straw purchase is where someone who is legally allowed to purchase a firearm purchases a firearm for someone who is legally barred from owning firearms, such as a convicted felon or someone subject to a restraining order.  It may seem like a small distinction, but it’s an important one – under the definition of straw purchase put forth by the Times and Reuters, a wife buying a gun for her husband as a gift is a “straw purchase”, when in fact that’s perfectly legal.

The third major media outlet that has coverage of the Adventure Outdoors civil case, which went to trial yesterday, was the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  They didn’t even define what a straw purchase is, but I’m confident that they probably would have messed it up as well.

Usage creep can actually be a tremendously damaging weapon against gun rights – if we allow the definition of “straw purchase” to gradually creep towards a more and more broad usage then we’re opening ourselves up for difficult battles in public perception.  Remember, it’s illegal to buy a gun for someone that would be legally barred from owning a gun – that’s the definition of a straw purchase.

On a more personal note, I hope that the judge in this case tosses it out on its ear; Bloomberg sent private investigators to other states expressly to break the law and entrap law-abiding gun dealers.  Ultimately, I agree with Jay Wallace, the owner of Adventure Outdoors when it comes to Bloomberg:

Wallace said “straw purchasers” New York sent to his Smyrna business simply found a way to entrap him and his business in a publicity stunt to draw attention to Bloomberg, should he run for another elected office, Wallace said.

This kind of tactic puts Mayor Bloomberg in the same category as the playground bully that used to beat kids up simply because he was bigger – I have a lot of respect for Jay Wallace for standing up to legal bullying of Bloomberg.  I guess playground rules still apply, you have to stand up to bullies to get them to back off.  If you want to support Jay Wallace’s court case financially, you can donate to the Bloomberg Fight Back Fund here.


  1. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the judge to throw it out – this is in front of Judge Weinstein, the most notorious anti-gun judge in the 50 states. NY purposefully made sure it would wind up in front of him. Expect to see an appeal after the dog and pony show is over.

  2. Um… Technically a “straw purchase” is “person A” posing as the legal buyer for a gun to be possessed by “person B.” I don’t think the law cares whether person “B” is a prohibited person…

    Does NY claim any gun actually sold by these people was used by criminals in NY?


  3. From the ATF’s website:

    A straw purchase is an illegal firearm purchase where the actual buyer of the gun, being unable to pass the required federal background check, uses a proxy buyer who can pass the required background check to purchase the firearm for him/her. It is highly illegal and punishable by a $250,000 fine and 10 years in prison.

    Person A can buy a firearm for Person B and have it be legal as long as Person B isn’t a “prohibited person”, i.e. someone who couldn’t pass the federal background check. That’s why it’s legal for a wife to buy a gun for her husband as a gift.

  4. I hate this Grey area. Here in Mass the permit process is involved and expensive. My wife is taking her sweet time getting a permit of her own (and I’ll be damned if telling her to ‘Hurry Up’ will get anything but the opposite reaction) this of course doesn’t mean she doesn’t love shooting Sporting Clays at my gun club. Of course its perfectly legal for her to use a shotgun of mine if I’m shooting with her, and my club allows spouces unlimeted access to club facilities so long as the paying-member spouce is there too.

    So obviously the best thing to do is buy a shotgun just for her to use (We picked a Beretta Ureka 12 Guage) nobody said anything, but I was still concerned with all the Bullshit Bloomberg was pulling that somebody might call “Straw Purchase” on me.

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