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Abramski v. United States

Justia.com Opinion Summary: Abramski offered to purchase a gun for his uncle. Form 4473 asked whether he was the "actual transferee/buyer" of the gun and warned that a straw purchaser (buying a gun on behalf of another) was not the actual buyer. Abramski falsely answered that he was the actual buyer. Abramski was convicted for knowingly making false statements "with respect to any fact material to the lawfulness of the sale" of a gun, 18 U.S.C. 922(a)(6), and for making a false statement "with respect to the information required ... to be kept" in the gun dealer's records, section 924(a)(1)(A). The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the misrepresentation was material and rejecting Abramski's argument that federal gun laws are unconcerned with straw arrangements. While the law regulates licensed dealer's transactions with "persons" or "transferees" without specifying whether that language refers to the straw buyer or the actual purchaser, read in light of the statute's context, structure, and purpose, the language clearly refers to the true buyer rather than the straw. The law establishes an elaborate system of in-person identification and background checks to ensure that guns are kept out of the hands of felons and other prohibited purchasers and imposes record-keeping requirements to assist authorities in investigating serious crimes through the tracing of guns tor buyers. The provisions would mean little if they could be avoided simply by enlisting the aid of an intermediary to execute the paperwork. The statute's language is thus best read in context to refer to the actual rather than nominal buyer. While Abramski's uncle could, possibly, have legally bought a gun for himself, Abramski's false statement prevented the dealer from insisting that the true buyer appear in person, provide identifying information, show a photo ID, and submit to a background check. The dealer could not have lawfully sold the gun had it known that Abramski was not the true buyer, so the misstatement was material to the lawfulness of the sale.

Timothy E. Zerillo has been included in every edition of New England Super Lawyers since 2010, for his Super Lawyers page, go to http://www.superlawyers.com/maine/lawyer/Timothy-E-Zerillo/ab011be9-fc96-44e9-ad28-3956da48c1b4.html

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