Abramski Opinion Released Today

SCOTUS Supreme Court Building

The Supreme Court has finally weighed in on Abramski v. United States today, and it was a 5-4 decision written by Kagan for Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor with Scalia dissenting and joined by Thomas, Roberts, and Alito. If you’re looking for more background documents on the case, here’s the SCOTUSblog page.

24 thoughts on “Abramski Opinion Released Today”

    1. Wow. That’s quite an article. Why anyone on our side wanted to file amicus briefs on his side is a head scratcher. This does not seem like a close question: the 4473 asks if you are buying the gun for yourself or for someone else — and he was clearly buying it for someone else.

      1. What if you are buying it as a gift for your child/ spouse/parent? How do you fill out the form

        1. That is legal. You just can’t be paid in part or in full for it.

          You are the actual buyer since no one is buying it from you or giving you money to buy it for them.

          1. For now. Nothing stops the ATF from changing their interpretation of the statute (again) tomorrow, so that buying a gun with intent to give it as a gift is illegal. We must cut down on illegal gun trafficking and make sure people comply with background checks, after all.

          2. It also asks if you are the actual transferee; if you’re giving it as a gift, you aren’t actually the transferee: the intended recipient is.

  1. You have to wonder why the Supreme Court chose this as the firearms-related case to accept while denying cert to other cases like Woollard, Drake, etc. This was a marginal case, in my opinion, that dealt with the parsing of language rather than substantive 2A rights such as carry.

    1. Someone on FB pointed out that this isn’t really a 2A case, but that given this decision, it might be worth it to reconsider whether we really wanted them taking up a 2A case this term. As optimistic as some have been over a court strategy, it’s clear that we’re only getting extremely basic acknowledgment of the amendment from them at this point. While we’ve had a few big wins, there have also been plenty of judges willing to largely ignore the SCOTUS on the issue.

      1. I’ve long held that the easily manipulated and rabid, uninformed, “line in the sand” delusional wing of the gun rights debate (witness, of course, the Texas Open Carry fiasco) is our most serious enemy.

        The thought that the Supreme Court was goign to go all in for us has no basis in reality. Its basically a 4-4 court, with a liberal California Republican ie: Anthony Kennedy up for grabs.

        And lets all remember who Kennedy really is – he’s was Reagan’s THIRD choice – the one he went to after Robert Bork’s nomination was rejected and the war on Drugs forced the withdrawl of William Ginsburg’s nomination. He’s a guy that Reagan originially recommended to Geral Ford, as Governor of California, for the 9th Circuit back in 1975 based on all the work and support Kennedy had provided Reagan during his term as Governor (when Ford was a law professor). The idea that this guy would be reflexively pro gun is mind boggling. He might eventually see our way, but we are a long way off from that.

        1. It is not very polite to talk about individuals that way. While the justices themselves are surely too busy to pay attention to blogs or social media, their staff would read things like this. Whether posters are trying to be nice or not, too much personal commentary on individual decision makers just isn’t good form. Yes, being talked about comes with the territory of being a justice/judge, but still. Perhaps consider your words from the perspective of “would I want to argue/speak in front of this person if he knew what I had written about him on the internet?” Sign of respect.

  2. Reading the opinion, it sounds like the court was concerned that if they ruled the other way, they would blanket allow straw purchases. Given that, there is no way they would have ruled for him. I disagree with their decision, but given the token support for the 2nd that courts have show, I’m not surprised.

  3. It has been awhile, but didn’t this guy buy the gun from a dealer (paperwork+background check) and then meet his uncle at ANOTHER FFL and do a papered transfer (paperwork + background check) to his uncle?

    If so, then all the crowing about circumventing paperwork in the first few pages of that decision is utter BS.

    Frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with buying a gun for someone, and then later transferring it to that person, ESPECIALLY when the second transfer includes paperwork and a background check through an FFL.

    Look at it this way: Assume there was a big gun show in your area. Further assume that you can’t make it due to work, but that a trusted family member will be going. As it stands, you can give them money and marching orders (what you want, what you’re willing to pay) to act as your intermediary for anything other than a gun.

    Frankly, I think that is insane.

    1. Your recollection is correct: he did transfer the gun via FFL (because his uncle lived in a different state):

      [Abramski] allegedly completed the government form, saying “yes” to the question about whether he was the actual buyer. His uncle had sent him a $400 check for the weapon, the government said. The gun was later transferred to his uncle, according to prosecutors, through a firearms dealer in Easton, Pennsylvania.

      I believe the issue was that he was accused of lying on the 4473 about being the actual buyer, nothing more. It’s ridiculous, but that’s the feds for you. More crazy is how he came to be investigated in the first place:

      Abramski got caught up — mistakenly – in a federal investigation of a bank robbery in Rocky Mount in 2009, apparently because he was said to look like the bank robber, although the robber was masked. Abramski was ultimately cleared of any role in the bank robbery and of any federal charges related to the robbery.

      However, during the federal investigation of Abramski, FBI agents searched his former residence in Rocky Mount. That search turned up a receipt that his uncle, Angel Alvarez, had written to him for buying a Glock 19 handgun.

      I’m waiting to see what impact, if any, this has on ATF rulings on how to interpret the straw buyer question with regard to gifts.

      1. “I’m waiting to see what impact, if any, this has on ATF rulings on how to interpret the straw buyer question with regard to gifts.”

        As am I.

      2. “I’m waiting to see what impact, if any, this has on ATF rulings on how to interpret the straw buyer question with regard to gifts.”

        Especially considering the fact that, prior to “sometime in the early 1990’s”, even the ATF would have considered Abramski to be the “actual buyer”. AFAIK, the actual statute never changed*, it was just an administrative decision.

        * And if it did change, Scalia neglected to mention it in that part of his dissent.

  4. You CAN buy a gun with the intention from the start of selling it to another person. That is called being in the firearms business, and requires a Federal license. Buying a firearm and then re-selling it right away is going to always attract attention IF the events of the sale are documented in a way that connects the two transactions and the documentation comes to the attention of the authorities.

    So, who in their right mind puts firearm related information on the memo line of a check? I mean, who in their right mind other than Adam Lanza’s mother?

  5. Somebody stop me if I’m wrong, but IIRC, Congress has not ever passed a law criminalizing “straw purchases.” GCA’68 criminalizes interstate handgun sales unless an FFL facilitates the transfer, and the Brady Bill requires a background check on all commercial/retail transfers. Straw purchases, on the other hand, are “illegal” because ATF regulations say they are. There’s no “law” against them.

    Which means SCOTUS just upheld a criminal conviction based on an executive-branch agencies’ say-so. The precedent will be that if an executive-branch agency revises its rules and regulations – or makes them up out of whole cloth – they have the full force of legislation, with or without Congressional action.

    As I said, correct me if I’m wrong, but if that’s all true, then this ruling is a Very Bad Thing.

    1. Except that he wasn’t charged with making a “straw purchase”, or making an unlawful purchase, or any kind of illegal transfer. He was just charged with lying on the form.

      Scalia’s dissent points out that the ATF’s own manuals outline similar situations where saying he was the actual buyer would have been perfectly allowable… Including buying the gun with the intent of immediately selling it to someone else who had made prior arrangements for the purchase. Apparently, according to the government and the majority, getting the money first is what made this a criminal act.

      In other words, typical government nonsense.

  6. It seems to me that this decision could lead anyone who buys a gun and decides they don’t like it and immediately sells it could be charged with lying on the 4473. Am i right about that.

    1. No, you’d only be charged if the ATF thinks you should be. See? Just as clear as any other make it up as you go fed regulation.
      Bet that gives you the warm fuzzies…

  7. What’s most galling is Scalia’s logic, which essentially allows that lying on the form would be impossible. He claims that if he sends his son with his money to buy milk and eggs at the story, no one with knowledge of “plain English” would claim that he had bought the milk and eggs. Yes, that’s true. But the point was not that the man exchanging the money for the item was “buying” the item, but whom he was buying it for.

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