What is a Straw Purchase?
A straw purchase is any purchase wherein the buyer is receiving the goods or services on behalf of a third party. In reference to firearms transactions, straw purchases are strictly unlawful. A buyer cannot purchase a gun on behalf of a person who is prohibited by law from buying or possessing the weapon or who wants to avoid a background check.
Under United States law, a person who purchases a firearm from a licensed dealer, but lies or misleads the seller about the identity of the ultimate possessor, can be charged but not yet convicted or with a very serious federal crime.
Understanding Federal Form 4473 (Firearms Transaction Record)
To understand how straw purchases work, you need to understand your requirements when buying a firearm from a dealer. When you purchase a gun from a licensed firearm dealer, you will be legally required to fill out Federal Form 4473. This form is the official Firearms Transaction Record that is kept by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The key question to look at on this is Question 11. This question asks the buyer if they are the actual “transferee/buyer” of the weapon. This question comes with an explicit warning: a person is not the actual transferee/buyer if they are purchasing the firearm behalf of another party.
Defining a Straw Purchase
The language of Federal Form 4473 can be confusing. Does it mean that you cannot buy a gun as a gift? Can you only purchase a firearm for your own use? Can you buy a firearm with the intention of immediately re-selling it? The answers to these questions are all deeply complicated. You need to be very careful when dealing with firearms purchases. In order to protect yourself, you should always disclose as much information as possible. To give you a better understanding of ATF regulations, the following four scenarios are all examples of illegal straw purchases:
- You cannot buy a firearm as a gift for a person if you have reasonable cause to believe that the person is prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms.
- You cannot buy a firearm for a person if you have reasonable cause to believe that they will use that firearm to commit a crime.
- You cannot buy a firearm for a person in order to help them get around the background check.
- You cannot buy a firearm for a person so that their name is not listed as a purchaser or possessor for a certain make and model of a gun.
A Straw Purchase is a Serious Crime
Under 18 U.S. Code § 922, a straw purchase is considered to be a very serious criminal offense. The bottom line: It is a serious crime to make false oral or written statements when attempting to acquire a firearm from a licensed dealer. If you attempt to deceive the seller or the government, you could end up in trouble.
Recent Developments: Supreme Court Grants Broad Powers to Combat Straw Purchases
In 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States heard the case of Abramski v. United States. This was one of the most important cases involving the alleged straw purchase rules that have been decided in recent years. The petitioner, Abramski, was a former police officer. His uncle, who had the legal right to purchase firearms, gave Mr. Abramski money to buy a gun for him. The purported reason for this was that Mr. Abramski’s status as an ex-law enforcement officer allowed him to obtain a discount on the purchase. On his Firearms Transaction Record, Mr. Abramski falsely reported that he was purchasing the weapon for himself. Even though his uncle had the legal right to buy this type of weapon, the Supreme Court ruled that this still qualified as an illegal straw purchase. The Supreme Court affirmed that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has very broad authority when regulating straw purchases.
Contact Us About Straw Purchases in Texas
At Rosenthal & Wadas, our top-rated Collin County criminal lawyers have extensive experience handling federal firearms cases. If you were arrested or charged with a crime in connection to an alleged straw purchase, we can help. Please call us today at (972) 369-0577 to schedule a confidential review of your case. From McKinney, TX, we represent defendants throughout the region, including in Collin County, Dallas County, Denton County, and Tarrant County.