Presidential candidate Barack Obama was resting in his Chicago home in September 2008, after a fund-raiser while outside, a drama was unfolding as police stopped a BMW at the security barriers protecting his house, says the Chicago Sun-Times. Officers found a .40-caliber handgun and a bulletproof vest in the car. They learned the man behind the wheel was a felon barred from owning a firearm. When federal agents conducted an urgent ownership check on the gun, they discovered his wife bought the weapon earlier that year at a suburban store.
Shantella Spencer later admitted she was a “straw purchaser.” Straw purchasers like Spencer have clean records that allow them to get an Illinois firearm owner's identification card that allows them to purchase guns for people banned from owning them. They sign a federal form saying they're the “actual” buyer when they really aren't. Authorities say straw purchasers are a key source of guns for the felons who've driven up Chicago' murder total 28 percent above last year's, wreaking havoc in neighborhoods and bringing national attention to the city. The odds of straw purchasers’ getting caught aren't high unless you buy a gun that gets confiscated outside the home of the future president of the United States. Spencer's case, among a dozen adjudicated straw-buyer cases reviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times, shows how easy it can be to circumvent the laws that bar felons from getting guns.