Abramski is a Second Amendment case challenging ATF’s use of its “straw purchase” doctrine to convict one eligible person who bought a firearm for another eligible person. When buying a gun, a person is asked on the ATF Form 4473 if he is the “actual buyer,” even though federal law only requires him to be the “transferee.” Congress never actually criminalized “straw purchases,” and it is not up to ATF or the courts to create new crimes in order to fill in the perceived blanks. The government argued that the gun dealer was “required” to keep information about the “actual buyer,” but federal law requires him to keep only the identity of the “transferee” — the person physically present to obtain the firearm.
CLDEF’s amicus curiae brief argued that federal law prohibits only the transfer to and receipt by persons ineligible to own firearms. It does not ever prohibit the initial purchase of a firearm by an eligible buyer who may later transfer it to an ineligible one. It most certainly does not prohibit one eligible buyer from purchasing a firearm for another eligible buyer, as was the case here. Moreover, since the defendant in this case went out of his way to verify the legality of his actions with three different gun dealers, the government cannot possibly argue his statement that he was the “actual buyer” was intended to deceive the dealer about the lawfulness of the sale.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the government, holding that — even though the statute does not prohibit straw purchases — the statute’s context, structure, and purpose must refer to the actual purchaser, not an intermediary.