Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The "Real Story" Behind the Recent SCOTUS Gun Control Ruling

I don't watch any kind of televised news program, but I do listen to NPR. And that means I am most often exposed only to the leftist bias in the media. So, this post is for anyone else who gets their news from a liberal source, but is interested in hearing more from "the other side."

Yesterday, NPR was reporting on Abramski v. United States and the way they introduced and explained the facts made it sound so obvious that Abramski was in error, I wondered why the court would have heard the case at all. Then they mentioned the conservative justices had dissented and I guessed there must be more to the story than any good progressive journalist would want to tell the public.

So, today I looked up the case on scotusblog.com and skimmed the petitioner's brief and the dissenting opinion. The way the story was told on NPR was basically like this: current gun laws state that you cannot buy a gun on someone else's behalf and so, at the point of sale, one must sign a statement identifying oneself as the "actual buyer." This is in order to keep people from buying guns and then selling or giving them to individuals who would not be able to pass a background check. Abramski bought a gun, certifying himself as the "actual buyer," but then gave the gun to his uncle. Abramski argued that this should have been fine because his uncle was eligible to have bought the gun himself.

Okay, so, that version of the story doesn't sound too good for Abramski. But here is the story from the petitioner's brief (found here, on the SCOTUS blog--I'll put it in purple because it's easier than trying to indent with blogger):

"In the fall of 2009, Petitioner Bruce Abramski’s elderly uncle decided he wanted a gun to protect himself 
inside his home. He went to petitioner for advice because petitioner was a former police officer and had experience with firearms. Petitioner told his uncle that he could obtain a law enforcement discount at gun stores and offered to buy the gun for his uncle to save him some money. Pet. App. 3a; JA 26a, 28a.

"Petitioner’s uncle wanted to ensure that they 'do things by the book,' so he spoke to three different licensed
gun dealers to ensure that petitioner could buy the gun for him and legally transfer it to him at another gun dealer near his home. JA 27a-28a, 31a. All three gun dealers confirmed that petitioner lawfully could purchase the gun for his uncle in Virginia and then transfer title to his uncle through a licensed gun dealer in Pennsylvania. Pet. App. 3a; JA 28a, 31a.

"After determining that the gun transfer would be legal, petitioner’s uncle sent him a check to cover the cost 
of the gun. Petitioner then went to a local gun store and bought the gun. As part of the necessary paperwork and background check, petitioner filled out ATF Form 4473, discussed supra at 8-10. Petitioner checked the 'Yes' box in response to question 11.a, indicating that he was the actual buyer. SA-1.

"After buying the gun, petitioner traveled to his uncle’s hometown and met him at a nearby gun store. 
Petitioner and his uncle filled out all the necessary federal paperwork to resell the gun to his uncle. His uncle passed the required background check and petitioner and his uncle paid all the necessary transfer fees. At a hearing in the district court, an ATF agent testified under oath that petitioner’s transfer of the gun to his uncle was lawful." [Boldface and italics added by me for emphasis.]

Different story, eh?

I also thought that the dissenting opinion made an excellent point with the observation that a person is lawfully deemed the "actual buyer" even if they purchase a gun that is intended as a gift, or intended for resale, or even intended to be given away at a raffle. In none of those cases would the person at the counter be considered a "straw" for calling themselves the "actual buyer."

Also interesting is the following from the "opinion analysis" on the SCOTUS blog by Lyle Denniston:

"The practical effect of the ruling is likely to be shutting down, or at least cutting back on, an active market in gun-buying by 'straw purchasers' — that is, mere stand-ins for the real buyers.  The Court cited data that about half of all federal investigations of illegal gun trafficking involve such purchasers."

Denniston implies that it's both common for people to act as "straws" in cases of "illegal gun trafficking" and (until now) difficult to prosecute them. But if that's true, why didn't any of those cases make it to the Supreme Court? Why is the issue only coming up in a situation like this, where the poor gentleman convicted of a crime had only positive intentions and had taken reasonable measures to ensure that everything was above-board?

Well, anyway, I don't have a personal opinion on whether the majority or the dissenting opinion was right on this case. But I do like to find out some of the additional details of stories which are reported upon in a biased manner in major news sources. And now I have shared some findings, in case anyone else is interested.

No comments: