Lying about your gun purchase is never okay, the U.S. Supreme Court held Monday in a divided 5-4 ruling that upheld a robust interpretation of federal gun law. The ruling preserves the ability of federal prosecutors to crack down on what are known as “straw purchases,” one of the most common ways of illegally trafficking a gun.(Think Progress)
In essence, what the Court said is that you can’t lie about a gun purchase, putting a crimp (albeit small) into what are known as ‘straw purchasers’. And what is a straw purchase, you might ask? Put simply, a straw purchase – in regards to firearms – is when one person buys a firearm for a second person who may – or may not – be eligible to possess said firearm. In the case at hand – Abramski v. United States (12-1493) – the plaintiff, Bruce Abramski, had legally purchased a Glock pistol at a firearms dealership in Virginia; when asked, as required by law, whether he was the intended user, Abramski answered yes. However, later on – and this is where his answer became a false answer – he gave the pistol, a Glock 19 handgun, to his uncle, Angel Alvarez. Now, both individuals were legal in regards to possessing firearms; neither of them were prohibited. What the question was before the Court, however, was whether Abramski, had broken federal firearms laws in regards to the false answer he’d given to the firearms dealer – namely that he had been the end-user of that Glock 19 handgun.
In a 5-4 decision, written by Justice Elena Kagan, the Court agreed with prosecutors…
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected that distinction, in a majority opinion by Justice Elena Kagan that recognized the centrality of identifying gun buyers to federal gun law.
“We hold that such a misrepresentation is punishable under the statute, whether or not the true buyer could have purchased the gun without the straw. The overarching reason,” she explained, “is that Abramski’s reading would undermine—indeed, for all important purposes, would virtually repeal—the gun law’s core provisions,” which establish “an elaborate system to verify a would-be gun purchaser’s identity and check on his background.”(Think Progress)
The Court’s reasoning was two-fold: (1)to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and those who are not legally allowed to possess firearms – felons, those w/mental illnesses, etc., and (2)laws such as the one Abramski was prosecuted under serve the purpose of allowing federal authorities to track firearms purchases for purposes of investigating crime. The rationale for (2) is where this case hung upon; in the Court’s eyes, what Abramski did was illegal because it hid the ultimate destination of the handgun in question, irrespective of whether the end-person or the initial purchaser were legally capable of possessing and/or purchasing said firearm. The decision, in this regard, continues a vital tool in the prosecutorial bag in regards to firearms tracking – the ability to track a firearm’s movement from one person to another in the hope of tracing said firearm in the event of a crime.
Naturally, the gun-rights community weren’t so thrilled, as evidenced in the dissent…
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.”(USA Today)
Maybe its’ just me, but someone needs to remind Justice Scalia that one of the problems plaguing law-enforcement in regards to firearms tracking is figuring out whether the initial purchaser was the end-purchaser, as specified in the law. Then again, if we were like the rest of the world, we wouldn’t have a 2nd Amendment…and that might not be such a bad thing, now would it?