Washington, D.C., June 16, 2014 — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today 5 - 4 that it is a federal crime to buy a gun on behalf of someone else in a “straw purchase.” The Court ruled in Abramski v. U.S. that purchasing a gun with the intent to sell it to someone else is an illegal attempt to evade the Brady law, which requires that the actual buyer of a gun undergo a background check.
“This is a very big and very positive decision that will save lives by keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Once again the Supreme Court rejected efforts by the corporate gun lobby to undermine federal gun laws, reaffirming that sensible laws can have a big impact while being consistent with the Second Amendment,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Today’s decision reinforces the intent of the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Brady Law, which requires firearm buyers to undergo background checks in order to prevent convicted felons, fugitives and other dangerous people from buying guns. The Court ruled that buying a gun on behalf of someone else is illegal, even if that person is not prohibited from owning firearms. In Abramski, a Virginia man was charged with “straw purchasing” after he bought a gun for his uncle, a Pennsylvania resident who was not prohibited from owning guns.
“The Supreme Court has properly recognized that federal law requires that those who intend to buy a gun from a licensed gun dealer cannot circumvent the Brady law by using a straw purchaser, but must submit to a Brady background check,” said Jonathan Lowy, director of the Legal Action Project at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “This decision is good law and good policy. It will save lives.”
“Straw purchases” have been identified by the the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) as one of the primary means through which criminals get access to guns. The ATF requires all gun purchasers at federally-licensed dealers to complete a form certifying that they are the actual buyer of the gun. If a buyer indicates they are not the actual purchaser, the dealer cannot complete the sale. To lie on this form is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and up to ten years in prison. The only exception to the “straw purchase” rule is if the gun is intended as a gift.
“Brady background checks have stopped over two million gun purchases by dangerous people and saved countless lives,” added Gross. “It is now up to Congress to listen to the American people and finish the job by expanding on the successes of the Brady Law, and require Brady background checks for all gun sales, including guns sold online and at gun shows,” said Gross.
The Brady Center was joined by the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the International Brotherhood of Police Officers in an amicus brief in support of the current law banning all “straw purchases.”
Jonathan Lowy is available for comment on today’s ruling and all of Brady’s legal work to support federal gun laws.
To view the amicus brief filed by the Brady Center, visit Abramski v. U.S.
Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in the common sense. In the spirit of our founders Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 25 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.