16 June 2014

Law in Plain English: Abramski v. United States

This is one in a series of posts designed to describe court decisions in plain English. For more detail and background on the legal issues, see the link to the case below. For similar posts, click here.

SCOTUSblogAbramski v. United States

Argument: Jan 22 2014 (Aud.)

Discussion: Abramski bought a handgun in Virginia for his uncle in Pennsylvania, but told the firearms dealer he was the "actual buyer." Subsequently, he was charged with being an illegal "straw purchaser" of the firearm. Abramski was convicted for two firearm offenses: (1) making a false statement that was material to the lawfulness of a firearm sale, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6); and (2) making a false statement with respect to information required to be kept in the records of a licensed firearms dealer — that is, that he was the actual buyer of the firearm, when in fact he was buying it for someone else — in contravention of 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(1)(A). Abramski appealed and argued that he and his uncle were legally entitled to purchase and own the handgun, and as a result, his conduct was outside the purview of § 922(a)(6) and 924(a)(1)(A). Nonetheless, the Fourth Circuit affirmed his conviction.

Issue: The questions before the Court are (1) whether a gun buyer’s intent to sell a firearm to another lawful buyer in the future a fact is “material to the lawfulness of the sale” of the firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6); and (2) whether a gun buyer’s intent to sell a firearm to another lawful buyer in the future is a piece of information “required...to be kept” by a federally licensed firearm dealer under Section 924(a)(1)(A).

Holding: In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Abramski's misrepresentation is material under the federal statute for making a false statement with respect to the information to be kept in the gun dealer's records.
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