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Karl A. Racine
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DC Joins Supreme Court Brief Backing Federal Law Banning Straw Purchases of Firearms and Requiring Truthful Answers About the Ultimate Purchaser

Monday, January 6, 2014

Ted Gest, Public Information Officer
[email protected]

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The District of Columbia has joined nine states in a U.S. Supreme Court brief supporting a federal law prohibiting “straw purchases” of firearms, in which a gun buyer arranges in advance to resell the weapon to a third party and fails to disclose that arrangement on federal forms, D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan announced today.

Led by the Attorney General of Hawaii, the nine states and D.C. last week filed a friend of the court brief agreeing with the U.S. government’s position and the lower court’s decision that Bruce James Abramski, Jr., violated federal law by making a false statement on a federally required firearm transaction record. The case will be argued before the Supreme Court on January 22.

Abramski was accused of purchasing a Glock firearm in Virginia and stating falsely that he was the actual buyer although he had already received a check from his uncle to pay for the gun, and delivered the weapon to the uncle in Pennsylvania. He claimed that the false statement was not material because the real purchaser was legally eligible to own the gun.

The brief contends that a ruling favoring Abramski would “directly undermine” federal policies on background checks to purchase firearms. “If felons and other ineligible persons can easily use straw purchases to avoid background checks, they will have greater access to firearms,” the brief contends. According to the brief, it is not up to the “straw purchaser” to determine if the ultimate purchaser is lawful; it is his obligation to tell the truth on the forms so that the authorities can determine if the ultimate purchaser is a lawful one.

If federal limits on straw purchases are eroded, the nine states and D.C. maintain that they “will be hamstrung in their efforts to enforce their own laws which…reduce gun violence, promote public safety, and support law enforcement.”

The brief cites data demonstrating that “many crime guns travel indirectly but quickly from federally licensed dealers into the hands of criminals.” It adds that, “Federal gun laws, including the requirement that the actual buyer be revealed and recorded, provide important and legitimate obstacles to the ability of and incentives for would-be criminals to traffic guns across state borders.”

The brief cites the Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, on D.C. gun laws, which said that the federal laws at issue in the Abramski case are presumptively lawful measures “imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

D.C. Attorney General Nathan said: “We believe it is imperative for the proper functioning of both federal and local gun control measures that all questions on the required forms are answered accurately and honestly. An affirmance of the lower court decision by the Supreme Court will be extremely important for the safety of our residents in the District.”