Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A favorable gun price?

US v. Abramski:  Bruce Abramski made a straw purchase of a Glock 19 handgun in Virginia for his uncle in Pennsylvania during November 2009. As a former police officer, Abramski believed he could obtain a more "favorable price" from a local firearms dealer than his uncle could likely receive. Abramski purportedly discussed with three federally licensed firearms dealers a legal means of conducting the transaction, and the advice he received lead him to believe that a licensed dealer in Pennsylvania could complete a legal transfer to his uncle after Abramski purchased the gun in Virginia. Three days separated Abramski’s purchase of the handgun from the transfer of the firearm to his uncle at a PA licensed federal firearms dealer. Abramski conducted this transaction despite the fact that his uncle could have legally purchased such a firearm himself, had the uncle chosen to do so.

Executing a straw purchase, however, is not a legal enterprise; the ATF form Abramski completed at the time of his purchase included several questions about the purchase of firearms, including special warnings about acquiring guns on behalf of another person. Abramski, in answering these questions, reported that he was the actual buyer, despite his plan to transfer the gun to his uncle in three days. The ATF discovered Abramski’s gun purchasing scheme, after the FBI obtained a search warrant for Abramski’s residences in the course of a bank robbery investigation (Abramski was never charged federally, and the state charges against him were dismissed). The search of one of the two homes revealed the receipt for the transfer to Abramski’s uncle of the Glock 19 handgun.

On appeal, Abramski challenged the denial of his motion to dismiss the indictment, arguing that a circuit split existed as to whether his transfer of the firearm to his uncle, who was eligible to purchase a firearm, could be considered a straw purchase. The Fourth Circuit disagreed with Abramski, and held with the Sixth and Eleventh Circuits, that the identity of the purchaser is material to the lawfulness of the acquisition by Abramski, and he made a false statement to the gun dealer in VA when he stated he was the actual buyer, as the transfer to his uncle was not an "afterthought." Abramski also challenged the denial of his motion to suppress evidence found pursuant to warrant at his home while police investigated the bank robbery. The Fourth Circuit found that the warrant was supported by adequate probable cause.

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