Pro-Gun advocates were dealt a bit of a set-back yesterday when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in a case that was seeking to roll back a provision of the GCA ’68 law, specifically the definition of a straw purchase. I’ll give you the short particulars of the case first:
Mr. Abramski buys a gun for his friend in PA, and his friend in PA later gives him the money to reimburse him for the gun. Mr. Abramski is picked up later on other charges (which were eventually dropped) but is charged with violating the law and committing a straw purchase. His defense was that because his friend was not a prohibited person then the transaction was not a straw purchase.
Now, here’s word for word what it says on the 4473 form regarding straw purchases:
Are you the actual transferee/buyer of the firearm(s) listed on this form? Warning: You are not the actual buyer if you are acquiring the firearm(s) on behalf of another person. If you are not the actual buyer, the dealer cannot transfer the firearm(s) to you.(See Instructions for Question 11.a.)
If you flip the form over to the back to read the instructions for Question 11.a, you get a pretty handy definition of what a straw purchase is or isn’t. Direct from the form again:
For the purposes of this form, you are the actual transferee/buyer if you are purchasing the firearm for yourself or otherwise acquiring the firearm for yourself (e.g., redeeming the firearm from pawn/retrieving it from consignment, firearm raffle winner). You are also the actual transferee/buyer if you are legitimately purchasing the firearm as a gift for a third party. ACTUAL TRANSFEREE/BUYER EXAMPLES: Mr. Smith asks Mr. Jones to purchase a firearm for Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith gives Mr. Jones the money for the firearm. Mr. Jones is NOT THE ACTUAL TRANSFEREE/BUYER of the firearm and must answer “NO” to question 11.a. The licensee may not transfer the firearm to Mr. Jones.
The form goes on to further elaborate on the fact that buying a gun as a legitimate gift is perfectly acceptable. However, if we look at the example detailed on 4473, you’ll note that it says nothing whatsoever about whether or not the 3rd party is a prohibited person. That’s because it doesn’t matter, at least according to the letter of the law. In fact, the example provided on the 4473 is almost an exact description of what Mr. Abramski did, so it’s really no surprise that the Court ruled the way it did. Would I have liked to see this case go another way? Certainly, but this was a long shot to begin with, and unlike Otis MacDonald or Dick Heller, Abramski wasn’t exactly and ideal vehicle for the case.
This is why court cases are so important, and why bad cases are so dangerous. We didn’t really lose anything in the Abramski case, and we also didn’t stand to gain very much. Still, it’s cases like this that make me shake my head and wonder what people are thinking.