The issue of the evening is a "straw purchase" from a commercial gun dealer. In this case, a gun bought by one person for another person whose identity is not disclosed to the retail gun dealer. Federally licensed gun dealers are required by law to keep a record of each transaction.
Federal laws that regulate gun commerce require federally licensed gun dealers (FFL) to record the type of gun and the actual buyer on Form 4473. The person receiving the gun must certify that they are legally eligible to buy guns and that they are buying the gun for themselves. The FFL performs a search on the buyer's in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) at the time they transfer the gun(s) to the new owner. If there is any indication that the person is not the true purchaser, the dealer is required by law to refuse the sale.
Straw purchases hide the identity of the true purchaser, enable guns to be purchased in undetectable quantities, bypass background check laws, and make it more difficult for law enforcement to trace guns recovered during crime investigations.
SCOTUS will hear arguments on Wednesday in Abramski v. U.S. We covered the facts and arguments in What? Straw Purchase a Gun? Abramski v. US. What began as a small case over an ATF form has now morphed into a matter of high principle involving more than 30 states, 50 major city police chiefs and one heckuva lot of other “friends of the Court” who want to be heard. A chronology and links to the briefs can be found in SCOTUSblog, an excellent resource.
So ... what do you think the law should be?
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Abramski argues, in effect: There's nothing to see here. I am going to sell to a person who could legally buy this gun themselves, someone who can pass a background check ... so don't even ask. Just trust me. The logical and practical effect of this argument is that there would be no inquiry at all about a gun buyer's intent to resell a firearm. Abramski's rationale would scuttle a tool of law enforcement against straw purchases.
Possibilities for the Court. SCOTUS could do any of the following:
(1) Affirm the convictions. It could find that the rationale for barring straw purchases is within the purposes of current Gun Control statutes and the enforcement powers Congress entrusted to the ATF. Or,
(2) Allow straw purchases but require the agent/purchaser to disclose the identity of the ultimate buyer. There would have to be background checks for both purchasers. The follow-up transfer would be through a Federal dealer, assuring that the designated buyer gets the gun and the dealers' documents accurately reflect the transactions. Or,
(3) Hold the straw purchase doctrine is not justified by current law, so Congress must enact a statute to specifically cover it. Or,
(4) Declare the straw purchase doctrine dead, so lacking in justification that not even an act of Congress could redeem it.
(5) Or ...
Should the Supreme Court strike down limits on purchasing a gun for someone else?