All of a sudden the boys down at Fairfax have become very concerned about doing everything with guns in a very legal way. The NRA website no longer contains those obnoxious, crazy videos from Dana, ‘home-school Queen’ Loesch, or the dance-and-prance shooting lessons from Colion Noir. Instead, now we get a whole menu of tips and tricks about how to make sure that everything you do with a gun stays completely within the law.
Except there’s only one little problem with the NRA‘s new-found concern for making sure that all gun laws are properly observed. And the problem happens to be the fact that the way the NRA chooses to describe certain gun laws may not be the way some of those laws actually work. Take, for example, their advice on how to purchase a gun as a gift for someone else.
The comment starts off like this: “Giving someone a firearm carries a certain level of legal responsibility that does not come with gifting iPads or socks. You should know the laws that apply to buying firearms as gifts for another person.” Fair enough. I have no problem with the NRA‘s advice up until now.
But then things get a little sticky, because the text then goes on to mention the fact that if you purchase a gun from a dealer, you must undergo a background check which involves declaring that you are buying the gun for yourself. But what if you knew that after buying the gun you were going to walk out of the store, wrap the gun up as a gift and give it to someone else? And let’s say further that you live in a state where giving that gun to someone else doesn’t require another background check? Which still happens to be the law in 29 of the 50 states.
Here is what the NRA has to say about that: “Even if you are not keeping the gun, you are the owner of that firearm until you legally transfer it to the intended recipient.” Sorry, but that’s not how the background check law works at all. Because what the law says is that you have committed a felony if you knew you were going to transfer the gun to someone else at the time you first purchased the gun and claimed on the 4473 background-check form that you were buying it for yourself.
This issue was decided by the Supreme Court in Abramski v. United States, which was argued and decided in 2014. Bruce Abramski was a part-time cop who walked into a gun shop in Virginia and bought a Glock. He then took the gun to Pennsylvania and gave it to his uncle who had earlier sent him the money to purchase the gun. But to take the gun out of the shop in Virginia, Abramski had to undergo a background check, and even though he was buying the gun for his uncle, he certified that he would be the legal owner of the gun.
Had Abramski paid for the gun in Virginia but let the dealer ship it to another dealer in the uncle’s hometown, he would have been following the law. But by walking out of the Virginia gun shop with a gun which he knew was going to be given to someone else, he had committed what we call a ‘straw sale.’
Abramski didn’t lie on the 4473 because he was going to sell the gun to a ‘street thug.’ He lied to save himself the cost of shipping the gun to a dealer in another state.
The real problem with gun laws, and this is probably true of the legal system in general, is that you can’t write a law that compensates for stupidity, and there’s plenty of stupidity floating around the NRA.