Another surprise was the straw purchases. Wintemute thought they would be uncommon no matter the location of the gun show because federal law bans straw purchases nationwide. Instead, he reported seeing â€œ24 definite and three probable straw purchasesâ€ in the four comparison states, and â€œone straw purchase and one probable straw purchaseâ€ in California.
Some were fairly blatant. On three occasions, all outside California, he observed straw purchasers buying multiple guns in a single transaction. He even saw a licensed retailer at a gun show in Florida processing multiple straw purchases simultaneously.
Also in Florida, Wintemute saw a woman in her twenties buying a rifle with a bayonet and 30-round magazine from a licensed retailer while her male partner, who had selected the firearm, stood 15 feet away while she completed the paperwork. As the background check was being run on her, the man talked with the retailer about the rifle and then bought ammunition for it once the background check had been completed.
I don’t think Wintemute understands what a straw purchase is. Only if the other party is a prohibited person, which, unless you heard the guy say “I’m a convicted felon” or “I can’t pass the background check” or something like that, it’s not a straw purchase under the law. For all this guy knows, the boyfriend was helping his girlfriend buy her first rifle. This is not illegal activity, and portraying it as such is disingenuous and unethical. But that’s what we’ve come to expect from people like this.
Straw purchases, particularly in the comparison states, were â€œout in the open, with no evidence that the buyer or seller felt the need to hide their conduct,â€ Wintemute said. â€œSo I infer from that that thereâ€™s no substantial effort to enforce [the federal law banning straw purchases] at gun shows.â€
Of course it was out in the open, because it’s not a straw purchase, and not illegal, unless the other person is known to be a prohibited person by the person transferring the firearm to them.