On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld two lower court decisions requiring that so-called “straw purchasers” to report when they are purchasing guns for other people.
The “straw purchaser” in the case was Bruce James Abramski, who purchased a Glock 19 for his uncle but indicated on the accompanying federal paperwork that he was the “actual buyer” of the gun. Abramski’s lawyer, Richard Dietz, contended that because both Abramski and his uncle were licensed to own firarms, he didn’t violate federal law when he transferred the Glock 19 to his uncle.
“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 during oral arguments in January.
The Justice Department argued that Congress had intended to identify the ultimate recipient of the firearm, and the Supreme Court agreed.
Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the ruling, said that using Dietz’s logic, “it does not matter whether the ultimate transferee was Al Capone or somebody else.” Justice Samuel Alito added that allowing licensed dealers to sell firearms without knowing who the final owner is would make existing gun statutes “utterly meaningless.”
Dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the Supreme Court was overruling the letter of the law. “The court makes it a federal crime for one lawful gun owner to buy a gun for another lawful gun owner,” he wrote in his dissent. “Whether or not that is a sensible result, the statutes Congress enacted do not support it.”
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Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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