The use of “straw gun” purchasers to purchase guns is not good enough, according to a Supreme Court decision, which on Monday upheld the convictin of a former police officer who bought a handgun for a relative, but failed to disclose his role as a “straw purchaser” under the federal firearms requirements.
The decision, a split 5-to-4 decision takes on a broader reading of the disclosure requirements under federal gun laws.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that the decision comes at a time of heightened public concern about mass shootings in the US and finding ways to prevent weapons from falling into the wrong hands.
The case before the high court involved a Virginia man, Bruce Abramski, who was sentenced to five years probation for claiming that he was the actual buyer of the weapon.
Mr. Abramski’s lawyers argued on appeal that he was wrongly convicted because his role in the purchase was not material to the lawfulness of the sale.
They argued that Abramski and his uncle, Angel Alvarez of Pennsylvania, were both legally eligible to purchase and possess firearms and that it didn’t matter whether Abramski made the purchase or Alvarez did so.
Abramski said he was involved in the purchase in an attempt to obtain a law enforcement discount for the firearm and pass the savings on to his uncle.
The uncle sent a check for the $400 purchase price. Abramski later transferred the gun to his uncle at a federally licensed gun dealer.
Nonetheless, federal prosecutors said Abramski committed a federal crime during the purchase because he failed to disclose on forms that he was not the actual purchaser of the weapon.
In a 5-to-4 ruling, the high court agreed with the prosecutors that Abramski’s actions violated federal firearms statutes.
“No piece of information is more important under federal firearms law than the identity of a gun’s purchaser,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the majority opinion. “Had Abramski admitted that he was not that purchaser, but merely a straw … the sale here could not have gone forward.”
Justice Kagan said Abramski’s misrepresentation on the federal form was, therefore, material to the lawfulness of the transaction.