Many people buy things at stores for their friends and/or relatives everyday, however the Supreme Court has now decided in Abramski v. United States that you cannot go to a licensed gun dealer and pick up a gun for a friend. More importantly to Bruce Abramski of Virginia, you cannot lie on the form that asks you if this is what you are doing.
Mr. Abramski had offered to buy a gun for his uncle from the Town Police Supply as he was a former police officer. In the course of making the purchase, he was asked to fill out a form which contained a question that if he was the buying the gun for himself only. He answered that he not buying the gun for anyone else. This was in fact not true as he was in fact buying the gun for another person. His uncle had sent him a check of $400 to pay for the gun and Mr. Abramski gave him the gun after it was purchased. Due to these facts he was convicted for lying on the form and was sentenced to three years probation, which he subsequently appealed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari because the lower federal appellate courts disagreed on whether to uphold the conviction.
In a decision written by Justice Kagan, the majority opinion takes us through the statutory construction surrounding 18 U.S.C. §922(a)(6). The Court stated that this statute and the federal form that arose from it were voted into law to stop gun buying by “straw” buyers obtaining guns for people who did not meet the federal requirements for gun ownership. The petitioner had argued that even though he was buying the gun for someone else, that other person would have easily been able to pass the federal requirements to buy a gun for himself. There has been some commentary that Mr. Abramski was getting a discount as a former police officer and that was the reason he, rather than his uncle, bought the gun.
The Court held that this argument did not matter as the fact was that Mr. Abramski lied on the form and that his action made the transaction an illegal one under the present statute. They considered the question on this form as a vital part of a record that licensed gun dealers must keep under the law. This record is mandated to facilitate a background check on actual gun owners and is vital to police in determining who has owned a particular gun should it be used in the commission of a crime.
Justice Scalia wrote the dissent joined by Justices Roberts, Alito and Thomas. Their argument followed that of the petitioner that the tracking system should not apply when the gun is being bought for a person that is eligible by law to purchase and own one.
The decision had no reference the Second Amendment right to own a gun, but however was based on the construction and meaning of the statute as passed by Congress. It may well be that people fearing gun control will consider this decision to be against gun ownership, but it appears to consider the statute as it was written.