SCOTUS Cracks Down on Straw Purchases of Guns


In a 5-4 decision on Monday, the Supreme Court made it clear that straw purchases of guns are absolutely illegal. Straw purchases, when the person buying a gun at a store purchases it for another party, has been linked to the illicit trafficking of guns. Obviously most criminals with a record can’t pass a background check, so they send in a straw purchaser who will pass the background check for them and get them the gun.

In the particular case before the Supreme Court, a police officer was using his police discount to buy a handgun for a relative, who was also a legal gun purchaser. The Supreme Court insisted that it doesn’t matter if the final buyer of the gun could pass a background check—the law forbidding straw purchases must be upheld. Otherwise, loopholes would render background checks and registration entirely useless and law enforcement officials would have no way to connect gun crimes to the people who bought the guns.

But this crackdown on straw purchases has a big loophole. In many states, it is not illegal for a private citizen to sell his gun to another private citizen without any background check or even notification to law enforcement. Some states are obviously more strict about these laws than others. But federal gun law requires background checks for gun purchases at public retailers, and according to the Supreme Court, the person who submits to the background check must apparently be the terminal owner of the gun.

That really makes no sense. If I buy a gun, and then sell it to another person (after checking for state ID or whatever), I don’t even have to report that to the civil government in most states. If the gun I sell is involved in a crime, the police might show up at my house (since I was the last registered owner), but all I would have to say is that I sold the gun and chose not to report the sale. I could voluntarily give information about the person I sold it to if I wanted (and I probably would), but this scenario makes it clear that so-called straw purchases are effectively legal in most states, as long as you leave a certified gun retailer out of the loop.

Honestly, the Supreme Court decision is really weak. If anything, it will encourage those who want guns for criminal purposes to maintain private avenues for purchase. And these private avenues, at least in most states, are not illegal. Basically, the Supreme Court has just ensured that the only people who will be harassed about straw purchases have no intention of ever using guns to commit crimes. And those who do want to commit crimes with guns will be even less likely to be registered with certified gun dealers. Congratulations, SCOTUS. Yet another useless hair-splitting decision that looks good on paper and does nothing to reduce crime.







Posted in Gun Control, Law Tagged with: , , ,
  • Saltporkdoc

    So…Now I cannot, as a father, purchase a firearm then give it to my son as a birthday present without committing perjury on ATF form 4473 (That’s the fine print above your signature to which you are agreeing when signing the form for those of you who never read the fine print. You are certifying the correctness of your answers, “…under penalty of perjury.”)
    How about everyone agree life is a hazard that few can protect us from, especially NOT the government (and NOT tort attorneys) and simply go back to accepting that the world is a hazardous place which REQUIRES a totally open 2nd Amendment right to obtain, keep and bear arms for our own protection!

    • Gold Stars

      Agreed!!

    • Phrank stein

      You might do some research into your comment. It has been upheld by the SCOTUS around 20 years ago that you cannot under the 5th admendment purjur yourself on the 4473. It was a case where a convicted felon answered no on the form and won his case since it would be self incrimination to have stated that he was a former felon.
      This whole thing is total BS anyway and as usual un-Constitutional as most laws and decisions have been for the past 150 years or so.

      • Gold Stars

        Now if we could just get this administration to read the Constitution and follow it!

  • Rick

    If a straw purchase is a crime, what happened to Sarah Brady when she purchased a firearm as a gift?

    • elector

      How about the Giffords who purchased guns for each other after she was shot. Newtown was not a straw buyer case. The shooter used his mothers legally owned guns to commit the crime. Of course, this whole incident is alleged anyway.

      • Rick

        The real question is “what is a terminal buyer”. Many states, including Arizona and Georgia, allow for “private transfers” without background checks ( BC ) and the only people required to do a BC are the FFL’s. How long must one keep a weapon prior to sale or gifting? Do the rules change if money changes hands i.e. sale vs. gift. Must a gift be to an immediate family member or any relative? In California, the law is:”The infrequent transfer of firearms between immediate family members is exempt from the law requiring private party transfers to be conducted through a licensed firearms dealer. For purposes of this exemption, “immediate family” means parent and child, and grandparent and grandchild but does not include brothers or sisters.” This also excludes step- parent to step- child transfers. Rather silly. Brother to mother to daughter is legal and the same as brother to sister. Additionally, in some states, a CCW will list all weapons covered. They must be owned by you or your wife.
        I have weapons and recently purchased another. There was a ten day wait. Why is there a wait if I already own weapons? I also have a CCW. I assume that I was checked through the FBI. Why a wait?

        • elector

          Interesting and I agree. Indiana had and may still have a 3 day wait. I was a Deputy Sheriff for a large Department and when I went to the FFL to buy an off duty weapon, I had to wait 3 days which I thought to be silly since I had the Sheriff’s credentials.

  • Lonnie Lynne Hanley

    Does that mean I can’t buy a gun for my husband for Christmas or his birthday, stupid! Not gonna stop me, still in my house. Stupid laws, criminals don’t buy guns from gun shops, they buy stolen government guns from Mexico!!

    • John

      And the Mexicans get then from the Atoorney General of the US. Let the SCOTUS go after him.

  • PerplexedWisconsinite

    The problem here is that criminals need someone without a criminal background to buy a gun for them. Most of these people without criminal backgrounds would most likely want to maintain their lack of criminal background. They can do this by following state gun laws and not immediately transferring guns to criminals.

    • rich

      keep it for a day and resell? then it is a private sale not a buy for someone else.
      Gifts if giving as a gift you own it for the specified amount of time. then you are gifting it, to your child, spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend. so technically not a straw purchase. besides if gifting to children under 18 you have them right to take it away from them, as they are still your child. so technically loaned to them until 18.

      The Straw purchase laws are just a farce.

      • PerplexedWisconsinite

        I think most reasonable courts and most reasonable DAs are going to view this in retrospect. If you buy your son a gun for Christmas and follow applicable state law to transfer ownership to him, I don’t think you have violated federal law.

        If you buy your son a gun and he has a criminal record, and you ignore state and local regulations on gun transfers, you’re probably in trouble.

        I agree that there ought to be a legislative safe harbor on federal straw buyer rules. If your state has regulation on gun transfers between individuals, if they involve some sort of actual review of the transfer designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, and you follow those regulations and document the sale, straw buyer rules should not apply to you.

        But yes. If you buy a gun for your criminal uncle because you know- or ought to know- he can’t pass a background check and he uses it to rob a store, that *ought* to create some sort of criminal liability for you. (I think it should be a more mild criminal liability assuming RICO laws aren’t also involved)

        • Laddyboy

          Do not come to Maryland. Our gun laws are beyond rediculous. We now cannot buy an AR15, however, we can buy an AR10. DUHHHHHHHHH!?

  • mattwm

    I amazes me that these judges/lawyer on the supreme court cannot understand the constitution. it clearly states that congress shall make NO LAW infringing on the right to bear arms. this is an infringement. requiring a background check is an infringement.

    • elector

      Actually The SCOTUS violated The Constitution by making the law as they can only interpret the Constitutional validity of a Law. Marginal Lawyers at the best and I am not sure I would want any of them involved in any Court case I was involved in.

  • pete0097

    If a criminal wants a gun, he/she will will get a gun. What part of that is beyond the intelligence of the anti gun lobby?

    • Mrs. Patriot

      Every part, because they have none. The truth is that progressives truly think they know more than everybody else and therefore all facts, truth, and arguments are irrelevant. This is why they will not debate. It’s not that they can’t argue on the facts; they just don’t care about them. This is why they must be defeated and we need to stop wasting our breath with them.

      • Laddyboy

        Also the anti-gunners LOVE the emotional adaptations of behavior. It used to be called THEACTRICS. All show and not much fact. What “facts” they use have been TWISTED beyond any recognizable fact or truth.

  • Alupara

    Just another incremental step………

  • http://www.bibleversusconstitution.org/ Ted R. Weiland

    This is but evidence demonstrating the Second Amendment cannot protect our weapons. For two reasons why the Second Amendment is doomed, see http://www.constitutionmythbusters.org/the-second-amendment-is-doomed/.

    It would also be prudent to ask ourselves how America had ended up with such justices on the Supreme Court and throughout the entire Constitutional juridical system? Any chance it might have something to do with the late 1700 Enlightenment founders’ failure to establish government upon Yahweh’s immutable morality as codified in His immutable triune moral law and that the framers, in Article 6, banned Christians tests and thereby Biblical qualifications for federal officials?

    You’d of certainly not found any such judges in 1600 Colonial America’s governments of, by, and for God.

    Find out how much you REALLY know about the Constitution as compared to the Bible. Take our Constitution Survey at http://www.bibleversusconstitution.org/ConstitutionSurvey.html and receive a free 85-page (postage-paid) book that EXAMINES the Constitution by the Bible.

  • Keith Liberty

    The GOVT gives guns to criminals and cartels and yet makes up laws like this to give it excuses to go after law-abiding citizens. In order for our govt to maintain its Police State (allow criminals to do what they want, find ways to go after law abiding citizens that are attempting to hold our govt accountable for its crimes and transgressions), it must eat away at gun ownership…..

    It doesn’t matter that gun crime is down and hammers kill more people…..the govt truly wants to go after people who don’t approve or like it when its all said and done and this is one of the means to do so….

  • Mrs. Patriot

    “If the gun I sell is involved in a crime, the police might show up at my house (since I was the last registered owner)”

    But, background checks aren’t registration. You watch too much tv.

    • Gold Stars

      Sadly we can only hope this is true, however we know this administration is not too good at following the law. Recently the ATF has violated court orders and conducted illegal seizures and searches in recent months.
      Another thing to remember is while background checks are not yet registration, several cities and now states require registration of many firearms, so the comment is with some merit, depending on where you live. :(

    • markinla

      There is a federal form that the gun dealer has to keep a copy of when ever a gun transfer goes through him. I believe it is 4473. The ATF will go to the manufacturer who will check their records and go to the next dealer in the chain and continue until they get to the final recorded buyer (the last registered owner).

      • Laddyboy

        The problem with the 4473s is that the Feds are copying the information. The State ALREADY has the buyer’s information because the State gets a copy of the 4473; at least in Maryland.

        • markinla

          I was commenting on the idea that Mrs. Patriot seems to imply that a gun cannot be tracked to a legal owner.

        • Laddyboy

          I understand. The government will spend a million dollars on something, just to prove their point.

    • Laddyboy

      You are mistaken. When you have a back ground chek, ATF has your name on a list. This is a form of registration.

  • elector

    Kagen, Gonesberg, Sotomayor were, in my opinion , marginal Lawyers at best and if I recall from what I have read Kagan was basically totally inept. Hell, she even refused to recuse herself from a recent case she had a part in. She reminds me of a beech ball rolling down the beach with no idea where it {she} is going. Stevens and Kennedy don’t have much more to offer. Thankfully I do not have anyone for whom I would buy a gun for anyway. Also the cop who bought the gun for another to get the discount, I am sure, violated Department rules and probably State Fraud Laws.

    • Laddyboy

      I disagree. Both were legally able to have a weapon. Both went through the FFLs of their respective states. This transfer was legal. It is the Anti-gunners in D.C. who do not understand the laws that are the problem. They have either; 1.) lost their “Common Sense”, or 2.) never had any “Common Sense” to begin with.

  • pearl87

    This article seems to be making the point that the SCOTUS should have reached further to try to regulate the states. I reject that idea and I’m disappointed in Michael Minkoff for even trying to suggest it.

    • Kathryn

      So you got that impression as well? I was beginning to think that the article originated on Huffpo.

  • tenndoug911

    That is only if the second party buys the gun from the person that filled out the paperwork. A gift to a second party is fine.

  • David Gray

    REALLY? If SCROTUS wanted to crackdown on straw purchases they would have to endict the BATFA upper echelon and Justice Department that bought guns under false pretense that mysteriously ended up crossing the Mexican border killing hundreds. Oh but I forgot, it’s okay to break laws with the blessing of the top dog lawman and only Attorney General to ever be found in contempt of Congress, Eric “Bad Boy” Holder. Open your eyes, look around and take a deep breath. The smell of a Banana Republic is everywhere.

  • OldSalt50

    Tell me, how is this going to be enforced??? If I want to buy a gun for my daughter, who is of age and legal to own a gun, what’s to stop me??? This stupid SCOUS ruling that can’t be enforced???? Idiots!!

  • Kathryn

    The guy bought the gun for his brother because he gets a discount. His brother is a gun-owner and can pass a background check. That doesn’t seem to matter. The only reason they caught it was because the brother wrote in the memo section of his check to his brother what he was writing it for. Not sure what triggered the investigation in the first place. I suppose they could have done a transfer through an FFL and the transaction would have been legal? I just really think this decision opens up a big old can of worms with even more intrusion into the rights of gun-owners.