How ATF Goes After Illegal Firearm Straw Buyers


Give Mark Koscielski of Minneapolis’ Koscielski’s Guns and Ammo the slightest indication that the gun you want to buy from him may not be for you, and the sale’s over, says the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Say a couple comes in, and the male is looking at guns while the female doesn’t do anything, and finally he says, ‘I will take this gun,'” he says. “We hand him the federal form, and he will hand it to his girlfriend or wife. Can’t do that.” That’s how federal authorities want gun sellers to respond to “straw buyers” — people with no criminal record who buy a gun and then hand it over someone who can’t legally buy one because they’re a criminal, mentally ill, or underage. Experts estimate that 90 percent of guns used in crimes come through this “gray market,” said Bernard Zapor, agent in charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in St. Paul.

At some point, someone is taking those guns from the lawful market to the unlawful market, he said. Whether it’s someone looking to make an extra buck or a girlfriend doing a favor for a boyfriend, it’s illegal. Chaska, Mn., Police Chief Scott Knight, chairman of the firearms committee for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said straw buyers are different than gun runners. He said straw buyers don’t buy in volume. The vast majority are women, and they do it out of allegiance, not for money. Zapor said the ownership of every gun from a shooting in Minneapolis is now traced through the straw-buyer chain to the point where the weapon was last purchased legally. The straw buyers they snag face being prosecuted federally.

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