Federal Law Can’t Apply to Us!

It’s funny how many of the left leaning blogs are astounded about the notion that the ATF is investigating one of their favorite reporters:

I want to address the idiotic notion that Bailey was involved in an illegal “straw purchase,” which at least one Media Nation commenter has fallen for. What straw purchase? Bailey gave money to Walter Belair, a former prison guard, in order to buy a gun. Belair didn’t buy the gun for Bailey; he bought it for himself, and, indeed, kept it until it was confiscated by the feds.

It’s not really such an idiotic notion. As I mentioned yesterday, the fact that the gun went with someone else is not necessarily the relevant fact, but that a straw purchase could still be affected without the actual buyer being in actual possession. While I think it’s unlikely that Mr. Bailey has anything to worry about in terms of actual charges (most of the facts don’t seem to point to a straw man purchase), I can’t exactly blame the ATF for investigating.

It almost seems as if some on the left believe these laws would only affect criminals, and that it was a waste for the ATF to go after people who are generally law abiding. If folks on the left think that, I couldn’t agree more! But you know, the laws don’t only target criminals, who don’t care if they break the law. They target ordinary people too, like Steve Bailey.

That’s why those of us, like me, who are into shooting and collecting, and definitely the folks who are into gunsmithing, are so intimately familiar with these laws. It’s a minefield, and one trip can turn you into a felon. If you don’t like the idea of the ATF investigating Mr. Bailey, then how about helping us repeal some of the more onerous ones?

UPDATE: Kennedy replies in the comments.   So do I.

6 Responses to “Federal Law Can’t Apply to Us!”

  1. Dan Kennedy says:

    Sebastian: I don’t know why you find this so difficult. Bailey was *not* the actual buyer. He gave money to Belair, who bought the gun and took it home with him. Understanding this does not require an advanced degree in gun laws. It requires logical thought.

  2. Sebastian says:

    Did you even read what I wrote and linked to in regards to what a straw buy actually is? Did you see that I said I think this is not likely to be an actual straw buy? But it’s not so unlikely that the ATF is being unreasonable for investigating; what he said on the air was probable cause, and then you had Rosenthal insisting it was a straw buy. It doesn’t mean he’s guilty, it means the ATF thought there was something worth investigating. If they were heavy handed, well, that’s the ATF. That’s how they operate.

    I doubt any charges would come of it, and I don’t actually want to see Mr. Bailey end up charged, because I don’t think it was a straw buy. But as much as you’d like to think the ATF is logical and reasonable in the application of federal laws, it is not always. The words “arbitrary and capricious” come to mind, quite often, and as I mentioned in the post I linked to here, there are novel legal theories where who is in actual possession of the firearm wouldn’t matter, if Bailey retained constructive possession (meaning he had access to it, and it was understood to be his gun).

    If you think our nation’s gun laws are applied evenly, fairly, and logically, you’re sorely mistaken.

  3. Robert H. Frost says:

    1.) False statements were made on a federal form:

    “While buying a firearm for someone else is not itself illegal, Federal forms require that this information be disclosed at the time of the purchase. (See ATF Form 4473.) Knowingly making false or fictitious statements & including false statements relating to prior felony convictions & on the required application form is an offense prosecutable under 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6).” From [I][b]Bureau of Justice Statistics[/b] Special Report With Preliminary Data for 1999 Federal Firearm Offenders,1992-98[/I]

    2.) The false statements prove only that false statements can be made. The fact that Bailey et al drove to New Hampshire to “prove” how easy it is to get a gun in NH only demonstrates that he could just as well have lied in MA for the same “straw purchase” purpose.

    3.) The Second Amendment Foundation quotes Bailey: “Bailey is miffed because on the day we asked for the investigation, and his dismissal from the Globe for this ethical breach, agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and a Manchester police officer tracked down Belair at work, showed him a search warrant and subsequently confiscated the gun.”

    So, by inference, the Boston Globe is the purchaser of the gun.

    The Globe and Bailey may well skate on this but what he did proved only that liars can sometimes lie successfully about anything.

  4. Robert H. Frost says:

    Oops, forgot to add this piece of arrogance also attributed to Bailey by the Second Amendment Foundation:

    “But he (the New Hampshire man) bought it for me. I gave him a couple of hundred bucks. We expensed it to the Globe by the way. One of the first things I learned when I came to the Globe was I never saw a receipt I couldn’t expense.”

    (sorry about the useless html code in previous post).

  5. Dan Kennedy says:

    Here’s a definition of “straw purchase.” Yes, it’s from Wikipedia, but it seems pretty reasonable:

    “A straw purchase is a situation in which a buyer uses an intermediary (a ‘straw purchaser’) through which to acquire one or more firearms from a licensed firearms dealer. The purpose is to hide the identity of the true purchaser or ultimate possessor of the firearm(s). Straw purchases and theft are the most common ways that prohibited people, such as convicted felons, obtain firearms.”

    By that light, there was no straw purchase in the Bailey transaction, even if Bailey says there was. There was no intermediary, either. Belair got the money and bought the gun for himself. Bailey may have *said* that Belair bought the gun for him (Bailey). But that’s not what happened. At worst, Bailey was engaging in a little hyperbole on the radio.

    Sebastian, you’re right, you seem to get it, and I apologize. But Mr. Frost seems not to get it. Whose woods these are I think I know.

  6. Sebastian says:


    Lying on the federal form about who is the actual buyer is the main element of a straw purchase. The case law on when that happens is often rather unclear. But it would seem the essential element is “was there a conspiracy to deceive the dealer as to the legality of the purchase”. If the purchase was “Bailey gave me 250 bucks from globe so I could purchase a gun for myself.” then a straw purchase wouldn’t have taken place: Belair was the actual buyer. The fact that the ATF seized the gun off him would indicate that he had the firearm in his possession.

    If the parties involved all understood that the gun would be Belair’s, and not Bailey’s, the payment from the Globe is immaterial; it’s legal to give someone a gift of money. The ATF will want to ascertain that was the arrangement. I suspect the gun will be returned to Belair, and the ATF will drop the case. Quite honestly, if they prosecute Bailey given he facts we know, unless there’s something we don’t, it’ll be another example of heavy handedness and reaching definitions on the part of ATF that have no basis in law. I consider that a bad thing.