Federal background check laws can prohibit an individual from buying a gun for someone else as a "straw" purchaser, even if both people are legally able to own firearms, according to a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling out on Monday. The case, Abramski v. the United States, concerned the conviction of a former police officer who purchased a Glock 19 handgun for his uncle, despite telling the seller that he was the "actual transferee/buyer" for the weapon, and not purchasing on behalf of another.
Bruce Abramski purchased the Glock on behalf of his uncle because he believed that, as a former police officer, he could get a discount on the firearm. The handgun was not a gift; his uncle later sent Abramski a check for $400 for the weapon. While purchasing the firearm, Abramski answered "Yes" to what is known as Question 11.a, which reads:
Question 11.a. Actual Transferee/Buyer: For purposes of this form, you are the actual transferee/buyer if you are purchasing the firearm for yourself or otherwise acquiring the firearm for yourself . . . .You are also the actual transferee/buyer if you are legitimately purchasing the firearm as a gift for a third party. ACTUAL TRANSFEREE/BUYER EXAMPLES: Mr. Smith asks Mr. Jones to purchase a firearm for Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith gives Mr. Jones the money for the firearm. Mr. Jones is NOT THE ACTUAL TRANSFEREE/BUYER of the firearm and must answer “NO” to question 11.a.”
Except that was not true, in his case. For falsely answering "Yes" to that question, Abramski was convicted of making false statement “with respect to any fact material to the lawfulness of the sale." He challenged the ruling by arguing that his answer to the question was not material because his uncle is legally eligible to purchase a firearm himself, and the law under which he was convicted was only intended to prevent guns from getting into the hands of felons.