What is a Straw Purchase?

A straw purchase happens when a buyer receives goods or services on behalf of a third party. Regarding firearms transactions, straw purchases are strictly unlawful. A buyer cannot purchase a gun on behalf of a person prohibited by law from buying or possessing a gun. You also can’t purchase a gun for someone who wants to avoid a background check.

A person who purchases a firearm from a licensed dealer, but lies or misleads the seller about the identity of the ultimate possessor, can be charged with a very serious federal crime.

Understanding Federal Form 4473 (Firearms Transaction Record)

To understand how straw purchases work, you must understand your requirements when buying a firearm from a dealer. When you purchase a gun from a licensed firearm dealer, you must fill out Federal Form 4473. This form is the official Firearms Transaction Record kept by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The key question to look at on this is Question 11. This question asks the buyer if they are the actual “transferee/buyer” of the weapon. This question comes with an explicit warning: a person is not the actual transferee/buyer if they purchase the firearm on another party’s behalf.

Defining a Straw Purchase

The language of Federal Form 4473 can be confusing. Does it mean that you cannot buy a gun as a gift? Can you only purchase a firearm for your use? Can you buy a firearm with the intention of immediately re-selling it? The answers to these questions are all deeply complicated. You need to be very careful when dealing with firearms purchases. To protect yourself, you should always disclose as much information as possible. To give you a better understanding of ATF regulations, the following four scenarios are all examples of illegal straw purchases:

    1. You cannot buy a firearm as a gift for someone you believe is prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms.
    2. You cannot buy a firearm for a person you believe will use that firearm to commit a crime.
    3. You cannot buy a firearm for a person to help them get around the background check.
    4. You cannot buy a firearm for a person so that their name is not listed as a purchaser or possessor for a certain make and model of a gun.

A Straw Purchase is a Serious Crime

Under 18 U.S. Code § 922, a straw purchase is considered a serious criminal offense. Making false oral or written statements when attempting to acquire a firearm from a licensed dealer is a serious crime. You could get in trouble if you attempt to deceive the seller or the government.

Recent Developments: Supreme Court Grants Broad Powers to Combat Straw Purchases

In 2014, the United States Supreme Court heard the case of Abramski v. United States. This was one of the most important cases involving the alleged straw purchase rules that have been decided in recent years. The petitioner, Abramski, was a former police officer.

His uncle, who had the legal right to purchase firearms, gave Mr. Abramski money to buy a gun for him. The purported reason for this was that Mr. Abramski’s status as an ex-law enforcement officer allowed him to obtain a discount on the purchase. On his Firearms Transaction Record, Mr. Abramski falsely reported that he was purchasing the weapon for himself. Even though his uncle had the legal right to buy this weapon, the Supreme Court ruled that this still qualified as an illegal straw purchase. The Supreme Court affirmed that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has broad authority when regulating straw purchases.

Contact Us About Straw Purchases in Texas

At Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian, our top-rated Collin County criminal lawyers have extensive experience handling federal firearms cases. We can help if you were arrested or charged with a crime due to an alleged straw purchase. Please call us today at (972) 369-0577 to schedule a confidential review of your case. We represent defendants throughout the region from McKinney, TX, including Collin County, Dallas County, Denton County, and Tarrant County.

Written by: Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian Last Updated : September 18, 2023