Oral Arguments in the Abramski Case

Dave Hardy has a summary of Oral Arguments today before the Supreme Court. Sounds like the justices were tough on both attorneys, so not too much tea leaf reading. This case centers around whether you can buy a gun for someone else if that someone else is not a prohibited person. In Abramski’s case, he bought a gun in his home state of Virginia, took the gun to Pennsylvania and transferred it through an FFL there to his Uncle. He was charged with lying on 4473 in regards to whether he was the actual buyer. Abramski’s contention is that unless the other buyer is prohibited, it’s lawful to buy a gun for someone else, and ATF is exceeding its authority on 4473.

25 Responses to “Oral Arguments in the Abramski Case”

  1. JBiros says:

    Wouldn’t the fact that the gun was transferred to the Uncle through an FFL, be a defense?
    If there was no FFL transfer, (PICS check, 4473 forms) I could understand them questioning the transfer but seems like they went through all proper procedures.

  2. NotClauswitz says:

    I’m seriously confused. The whole FFL-action should obviate and vacate the prosecution’s spurious argument. The Law was followed as necessary.

    • Sebastian says:

      The argument is that when he purchased the gun, he did so with the other guy’s money, and thus was not the actual buyer. The government’s theory is that going through the FFL didn’t matter, because he lied on the original form to buy the gun.

      • alanstorm says:

        Is there argument going to be that he lied to a federal official? I gather that’s an actual crime, but:

        1. Federal officials lie to the public on a daily basis, so I’m sure the “clean hands” doctrine is against them, and:

        2. Obama lied to a federal judge twice in public (Jan 2009 and 2013), and HE’s till at liberty.

      • Jim Jones says:

        I find it interesting that there is absolutely no discussion of the fact that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right under our constitution. I know that the Supreme Court is actually in the business of interpreting very narrow rules, but I would have thought that it would have been an important argument.

        You have two citizen who were not prohibited persons. I was just surprised that the creation of a crime where both citizens subjected themselves and passed the NICS check was never weighed against their constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

        • Sebastian says:

          It’s really not a good idea to raise RKBA in this context, when you’re more likely to prevail on statutory interpretation. It’s arguably a commercial restriction, which Heller preemptively blessed. If you wanted to raise a broad constitutional issue, what would you challenge here? I think the best you could do in terms of a constitutional issue is an “as applied” challenge, rather than a facial challenge, and here you’re on more solid footing arguing the statute rather than the Constitution. Unfortunately, the law is more clear on the former than the latter, especially with RKBA.

        • HSR47 says:

          “I find it interesting that there is absolutely no discussion of the fact that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right under our constitution.”

          The problem with that is that there hasn’t been a large amount of clear legislation about what legitimate limits the government can place on that right.

          We all recognize that the government CAN pass/enforce laws that impinge upon our right to free speech (like laws against slander/libel); The important thing to remember is that these “reasonable limits” have been clearly litigated to the point where we know, on a legal basis, where the line is constitutionally. That largely isn’t the case with regard to the right to keep and bear arms; prior to 1900 everyone seemed to know what it meant, and since 1900 there hasn’t been a lot of supreme court activity on the subject.

          TLDR: They’re not standing on their chairs screaming “FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT” because they’re trying to do something productive.

  3. The Jack says:

    I’m surprised that the ATF picked to go after someone who then did the transfer through the FFL.

    Taken broadly is the ATF against all firearms resales even *with* an FFL transfer?

  4. Matt says:

    Since the BATFE doesn’t define a period of time someone is intended to be the possessor of the purchased firearm, I do not see how they’ll prevail in this matter. I may buy a gun and decide a few days later I don’t like it, post an ad and sell to another shooter via their local FFL. What crime have I committed?

    The good thing with this case is I don’t see how anti-gun forces can spin this to their favor regardless of the outcome.

    I can’t figure out for the life of me why this case was pursued this far. I can’t see how it could be argued a straw purchase because of the involvement of the FFL on the other end. The primary definition of a straw purchase is someone buying a firearm for another who is prohibited. Which his uncle was not.

    Are they really going to debate the meanings of the words “purchaser” and “recipient”, Clinton-style?

    • I can’t figure out for the life of me why this case was pursued this far.

      Because they can?

      This is why GCA needs to go. Our opponents will use every tool they can to try to imprison us. I know abolition of GCA is a pipe dream but maybe we need a FOPA II.

      • Countertop says:

        He pled guilty to some misdemeanor violation in this at some point, but in doing so reserved the right to appeal the decision.

        At that point, it wasn’t really about BATF. They had the documentary evidence, they we prepressing him over it and threatening jail time, and rather than risk jail and serious legal costs defending himself, he simply accepted their plea bargain. But he was smart to reserve the ability to appeal the underlying charge as part of the plea. I’m sure BATF wasn’t happy with that – but they probably didn’t want to actually risk goign to trial over this either.

    • Matthew Carberry says:

      There is a canceled check from the uncle to the nephew which has “for this gun” (essentially) in the note line. That gives the .gov proof the uncle provided the funds for the nephew to buy the gun for him, as opposed to having to prove those elements.

      This case was clean on the facts and thus allows them to focus on whether they can define the terms or not.

  5. rd says:

    I have a question: Would the transaction have even come to the attention of the BATFE if he DID NOT include an FFL in the second transaction?

    It would have been unlawful(?) (across state lines?), but how would the BATFE have found out? The uncle was an honest citizen, and not a prohibited individual from every thing I read. Is the BATFE trying to criminalize someone who tried to do a favor for his uncle and still do the right/lawful thing? Is Ayn Rand correct, and the government wants everyone to be a criminal to be punished?

    • HSR47 says:

      Our government is run by a bunch of power-mad low-hanging fruitgrabbers. They understand that they have little to no power over the innocent, so they seek to make us all guilty of something. Why else would they use such an archaic definition of “felon” for the statute barring firearm possession by certain convicted criminals?

    • freedom says:

      funny thing is, if he didn’t transfer, had no paper trail and just gave gun to his uncle instead of registering and transferring it, he would have broken no law… but because he let the government know where he sent it to, and transferred it legally, he’s getting charged… tax dollars hard at work people!

    • AndyN says:

      My understanding is that police found records of the financial transaction between Abramski and his uncle while searching his home for evidence of a bank robbery that Abramski was accused of committing. If you’re going to do something illegal (whether or not the transfer should have been legal, that series of questions on the 4473 is pretty clear, and checking yes on question 11.a. when you’re taking somebody else’s money into a store to buy a gun for them is a lie on a government document) it’s a bad idea to maintain a paper trail of it.

  6. Ursavus Elemensis says:

    How did the ATF know that this string of events even happened? I thought that the forms we fill out are kept by the FFL license holder, and the call-in is only about the purchaser, not the firearm, and the records of those call-ins are supposed to be destroyed after 24 hours. How did this case come to the attention of the ATF anyway?

  7. Sebastian says:

    To answer the two commenters:

    Abramski was being investigated for other federal crimes when they found the gun transaction. If I recall, the other charges were either dismissed or dropped, except the gun charge.

    When the feds decide to nail you, the go after anything they can find, and remember, three felonies a day!

    • rd says:

      Sebastian and Chris from Alaska,

      Thank you.

    • Countertop says:

      My understanding is they executed a warrant on him in relation to a different investigation. That went nowhere because they mistook him for someone else. Not sure if that mistake was like the drug raid where they raid the wrong house, or if there was a different Abramski they were going after or what. But during the raid, they uncovered the check from his uncle with a note indicating it was to reimburse him for the gun.

  8. Ursavus.elemensis says:

    Yeah, the ATF means it when they say that if you are buying and selling guns, you need an FFL license because you are in the firearms business. A lot of people don’t want to believe that the ATF is really serious about that point, but they do go after people for that fairly frequently. That may or may not relate to this case, but it is important for gun hobbyists to realize that while it may be completely unfair of the ATF to think this way, if you buy a gun and turn around and sell it soon thereafter, you are a gun dealer without the proper license in the ATF’s point of view.

    More directly related to this case: I thought that if someone transfers a handgun in PA to another person, the one giving up the gun and the one getting the gun both have to be PA residents, or the one not a resident has to transfer through an FFL in his/her state of residence to or from the PA FFL. Is that not the case? Let me say it a different way to make sure you understand what I’m asking: I thought an FFL in PA can not accept a firearm from an out of state resident without it going through an FFL in that person’s state of residence?

    • SPQR says:

      ” I thought an FFL in PA can not accept a firearm from an out of state resident without it going through an FFL in that person’s state of residence?”

      No, the whole point of an FFL is that the licensee can receive firearms in interstate commerce.