When Abramski’s uncle gave him $400 to purchase a handgun using his law enforcement discount, neither of them imagined it would lead to a Supreme Court case. Abramski went through a federal firearms licensee (FFL) to buy the handgun, and when he filled out Form 4473 he answered “Yes” to being the actual transferee/buyer of the firearm(s) listed on the form. However, Abramski knew he would immediately transfer the gun to his uncle, and even though gifting a firearm has long been accepted, the fact that he was using funds provided by his uncle, obviated that option.
After purchasing the gun, Abramski and his uncle went to another firearms dealer, in the state the uncle lives, and the uncle underwent a background check and filled out his own Form 4473. In spite of all of this, Abramski was indicted on making a false statement regarding a fact material to the lawfulness of the sale, and making a false statement regarding information to be kept on file by an FFL. In spite of Abramski’s motion to dismiss both charges, saying that he had not violated the law on the basis that his uncle was eligible to own a gun, and it is not information specifically required to be kept on file, the District Court denied the motions, and Abramski entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving the right to appeal.
After receiving a sentence to five years of probation, he appealed to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which was split in its decision. At that point, in order to address the split in the appellate courts, the Supreme Court granted certiorari.
The case finally reached the Supreme Court, and just a few days ago, they reached a 5-4 split decision against Abramski. They argued that since Abramski was not purchasing a gift, he made false statements on the form. Abramski argued that the intent of the law was to keep people from purchasing firearms for prohibited persons, but in the eyes of the Supreme Court, if money changes hands, it is considered a straw purchase even if both parties are eligible to purchase a firearm, if someone other than the actual buyer claims to be such.
Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the majority, stated that “No piece of information is more important under federal firearms law than the identity of the gun’s purchaser- the person who acquires a gun as a result of a transaction with a licensed dealer…Had Abramski admitted that he was not that purchaser, but merely a straw- that he was asking the dealer to verify the identify of, and run a background check on, the wrong individual – the sale could not have gone forward.”
In conclusion, the decision made by the Supreme Court holds that “regardless whether the actual buyer could have purchased the gun, a person who buys a gun on someone else’s behalf while falsely claiming that it is for himself makes a material misrepresentation punishable under 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6), which prohibits knowingly making false statements ‘with respect to any fact material to the lawfulness of a sale of a gun’.”