West Virginia files Supreme Court amicus brief over ‘straw purchase’ between law-abiding citizens

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced on Wednesday that West Virginia would join 25 other states and one territory in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that law-abiding folks who purchase guns from gun dealers only to turn around and sell them to other law-abiding individuals should not be subject to federal prosecution.

“Our Office is proud to lead a bipartisan group of 27 states and territories in this brief to oppose the U.S. Department of Justice’s attempt to unilaterally create a federal restriction on firearm sales between law-abiding citizens,” Morrisey said in a press release.

“We believe that every legal gun owner in this state and nation should be interested in the outcome of this case.”

The case in question involves former police officer Bruce James Abramski who purchased a Glock for his uncle at a gun store in Virginia in November 2009. Abramski, who got the gun at a discount due to his law enforcement ties, sent it to another gun store or federal firearms licensee in Pennsylvania where his uncle lived. His uncle passed a background check, picked up the gun and then sent Abramski a check for $400.

In the eyes of the Obama administration and the Dept. of Justice, Abramski violated the law because the FFL purchasing form — Form 4473 – clearly asks, “Are you the actual transferee/buyer of the firearm(s) listed on this form?” which is followed by this printed in bold: “Warning: You are not the actual buyer if you are acquiring the firearm(s) on behalf of another person. If you are not the actual buyer, the dealer cannot transfer the firearm(s) to you.”

Abramski got busted and in 2011 he pleaded guilty in federal court to two different counts of lying on the federal form and was given five years of probation, as the West Virginia Gazette reports.

Upon further reflection Abramski decided to appeal his conviction. After all, he was a law-abiding gun owner and so was his uncle, so what was the big deal? He wasn’t selling the firearm to a prohibited person, i.e. a felon, a minor, a domestic violence offender or a person that had been involuntarily committed or adjudicated mentally defective.

A lower court ruled against Abramski and he then filed another appeal, which brought his case, Abramski v. United States of America, before the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

National Shooting Sports Foundation's definition of a straw purchase.

National Shooting Sports Foundation’s definition of a straw purchase.

The 4th Circuit also upheld the ruling, contending that Abramski was a “straw purchaser.”

“The ATF form, as completed and signed by Abramski, warned him — in bold type — that he was not the actual buyer of the Glock 19 if he was buying it for someone else,” Judge Robert King wrote in a ruling this past January. “And the undisputed facts show that Abramski’s transfer of the Glock 19 to Alvarez was not an afterthought.”

Abramski once again appealed the ruling and asked the Supreme Court to hear his case. Back in October, the high court agreed to take it on this coming January 2014, which promoted pro-gun attorney generals from across the country to file the amicus brief, or friend of the court brief, in support of Abramski.

“This case is important to West Virginia citizens who wish to practice their Second Amendment rights and sell firearms to other legal West Virginia gun owners,” Morrisey explained. “The State of West Virginia does not discourage private gun sales, but the Department of Justice wants to ensnare innocent West Virginian gun owners in a web of criminal laws if they try to sell their guns.”

“This federal overreach is a blatant attempt to overstep state regulations and Congress in order to steer more gun sales to federally licensed dealers, who then make federal records of every transaction,” Morrisey continued. “While no one wants guns to end up in the hands of a potential or real criminal, the administration’s interpretation oversteps the law and could make criminals out of innocent citizens.”

The states joining West Virginia in this brief include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.

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