Supreme Court Upholds Strict Definition Of “Straw” Gun Purchases


The Supreme Court today narrowly upheld a conviction for the “straw purchase” of a gun by a former police officer in Virginia who offered to buy a Glock 19 handgun for his uncle. The majority in a 5-to-4 ruling rejected Bruce Abramski’s argument that because his uncle was legally eligible to own the gun, it “is not illegal to buy a gun for someone else.” That reading of the law on straw purchases, said Justice Elena Kagan, “would virtually repeal—the gun law's core provisions.” The federal law at issue is designed primarily to prevent firearms buyers from turning guns over to prohibited purchasers. Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor agreed.

In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said that the majority “makes it a federal crime for one lawful gunowner to buy a gun for another lawful gun owner. Whether or not that is a sensible result, the statutes Congress enacted do not support it—especially when, as is appropriate, we resolve ambiguity in those statutes in favor of the accused.” Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito agreed.

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