Skip to main content

In a 5-4 decision today authored by Justice Kagan, the Supreme Court of the United States approved the constitutionality of a federal prosecution of a man who acted as a straw purchaser for a Glock handgun for his uncle, even though the uncle himself could have legally purchased the weapon, under a federal firearms statute imposing criminal penalties on any person who makes false statements about “any fact material to the lawfulness of the sale.”

Abramski checked "yes" to the background check question asking if he was the “actual transferee/buyer,” and signed the requisite certification, acknowledging his understanding that a false answer to that question was a federal crime. He cleared the background check, and deposited the $400 his uncle had given him for the purchase. (His intent, he claims, was that he thought he could use his former police ID to get a discount on the sale.)

Abramski offered two principal defenses for this actions: that his lie was not material to the sale, because his uncle would have passed the background check; and moreover that even if he were lying, the federal government never intended to penalize straw buyers in the first place. Join me below the gnocchi to see how the Court addressed these questions.

As to the broader argument, Justice Kagan (with the three you'd expect, plus Occasional Swing Justice Kennedy) found that this claim would wholly undermine the statute:

The overarching reason is that Abramski’s reading would undermine—indeed, for all important purposes, would virtually repeal—the gun law’s core provisions. As noted earlier, the statute establishes an elaborate system to verify a would-be gun purchaser’s identity and check on his background. It also requires that the information so gathered go into a dealer’s permanent records. The twin goals of this comprehensive scheme are to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and others who should not have them, and to assist law enforcement authorities in investigating serious crimes. And no part of that scheme would work if the statute turned a blind eye to straw purchases—if, in other words, the law addressed not the substance of a transaction, but only empty formalities.

To see why, consider what happens in a typical straw purchase. A felon or other person who cannot buy or own a gun still wants to obtain one. (Or, alternatively, a person who could legally buy a firearm wants to conceal his purchase, maybe so he can use the gun for criminal purposes without fear that police officers will later trace it to him.) Accordingly, the prospective buyer enlists an intermediary to help him accomplish his illegal aim. Perhaps he conscripts a loyal friend or family member; perhaps more often, he hires a stranger to purchase the gun for a price. The actual purchaser might even accompany the straw to the gun shop, instruct him which firearm to buy, give him the money to pay at the counter, and take possession as they walk out the door. What the true buyer would not do—what he would leave to the straw, who possesses the gun for all of a minute—is give his identifying information to the dealer and submit himself to a background check. How many of the statute’s provisions does that scenario—the lawful result of Abramski’s (and the dissent’s) reading of “transferee” and “person”—render meaningless?

And Congress, she explains, did not intend otherwise despite its lack of regulation of aftermarket sales:
Abramski, along with the dissent, objects that such action is no circumvention—that Congress made an intentional choice, born of “political compromise,” to limit the gun law’s compass to the person at the counter, even if merely acting on another’s behalf. As evidence, Abramski states that the statute does not regulate beyond the initial point of sale. Because the law mostly addresses sales made by licensed dealers, a purchaser can (within wide limits) subsequently decide to resell his gun to another private party.  And similarly, Abramski says, a purchaser can buy a gun for someone else as a gift. Abramski lumps in the same category the transfer of a gun from a nominal to a real buyer—as something, like a later resale or gift, meant to fall outside the statute’s (purported) standing-in-front-of-the-gun-dealer scope.

But Abramski and the dissent draw the wrong conclusion from their observations about resales and gifts. Yes, Congress decided to regulate dealers’ sales, while leaving the secondary market for guns largely untouched. As we noted in Huddleston, Congress chose to make the dealer the “principal agent of federal enforcement” in “restricting [criminals’] access to firearms.” And yes, that choice (like pretty much everything Congress does) was surely a result of compromise. But no, straw arrangements are not a part of the secondary market, separate and apart from the dealer’s sale. In claiming as much, Abramski merely repeats his mistaken assumption that the “person” who acquires a gun from a dealer in a case like this one is the straw, rather than the individual who has made a prior arrangement to pay for, take possession of, own, and use that part of the dealer’s stock. For all the reasons we have already given, that is not a plausible construction of a statute mandating that the dealer identify and run a background check on the person to whom it is (really, not fictitiously) selling a gun. The individual who sends a straw to a gun store to buy a firearm is transacting with the dealer, in every way but the most formal; and that distinguishes such a person from one who buys a gun, or receives a gun as a gift, from a private party. The line Congress drew between those who acquire guns from dealers and those who get them as gifts or on the secondary market, we suspect, reflects a host of things, including administrative simplicity and a view about where the most problematic firearm transactions—like criminal organizations’ bulk gun purchases—typically occur. But whatever the reason, the scarcity of controls in the secondary market provides no reason to gut the robust measures Congress enacted at the point of sale.

Justice Kagan similarly brushes aside the immateriality claim:
An analogy may help show the weakness of Abramski’s argument. Suppose a would-be purchaser, Smith, lawfully could own a gun. But further suppose that, for reasons of his own, Smith uses an alias (let’s say Jones) to make the purchase. Would anyone say “no harm, no foul,” just because Smith is not in fact a prohibited person under §922(d)? We think not. Smith would in any event have made a false statement about who will own the gun, impeding the dealer’s ability to carry out its legal responsibilities. So too here.

Abramski objects that because Alvarez could own a gun, the statute’s core purpose—“keeping guns out of the hands” of criminals and other prohibited persons—“is not even implicated.” But that argument (which would apply no less to the alias scenario) misunderstands the way the statute works. As earlier noted, the federal gun law makes the dealer “[t]he principal agent of federal enforcement.” It is that highly regulated, legally knowledgeable entity, possessing access to the expansive NICS database, which has the responsibility to “[e]nsure that, in the course of sales or other dispositions . . . , weapons [are not] obtained by individuals whose possession of them would be contrary to the public interest.”  Nothing could be less consonant with the statutory scheme than placing that inquiry in the hands of an unlicensed straw purchaser, who is unlikely to be familiar with federal firearms law and has no ability to use the database to check whether the true buyer may own a gun. And in any event, keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals is not §922’s only goal: The statute’s record-keeping provisions, as we have said, are also designed to aid law enforcement in the investigation of crime. Abramski’s proposed limitation on §922(a)(6) would undercut that purpose because many would-be criminals remain legally eligible to buy firearms, and thus could use straws to purchase an endless stream of guns off-the-books. See, e.g., Polk, 118 F. 3d, at 289 (eligible gun buyer used straw purchasers to secretly accumulate an “arsenal of weapons” for a “massive offensive” against the Federal Government).

Justice Scalia wrote for the four dissenters, adopting in full Abramski's argument that the federal law wasn't intended to apply to straw purchasers at all, ever:
We interpret criminal statutes, like other statutes, in a manner consistent with ordinary English usage. In ordinary usage, a vendor sells (or delivers, or transfers) an item of merchandise to the person who physically appears in his store, selects the item, pays for it, and takes possession of it. So if I give my son $10 and tell him to pick up milk and eggs at the store, no English speaker would say that the store “sells” the milk and eggs to me.  And even if we were prepared to let “principles of agency law” trump ordinary English usage in the interpretation of this criminal statute, those principles would not require a different result....

Contrary to the majority’s assertion that the statute “merely raises, rather than answers, the critical question” of whether Abramski or his uncle was the “person” to whom the dealer “s[old]” the gun, the statute speaks to that question directly. Giving the text its plain, ordinary meaning, Abramski, not his uncle, was that “person.” That being so, the Government has identified no reason why the arrangement between Abramski and his uncle, both of whom were eligible to receive and possess firearms, was “material to the lawfulness of” the sale.

And Scalia would look at legislative and enforcement history here:
[P]erhaps Congress drew the line where it did because the Gun Control Act, like many contentious pieces of legislation, was a “compromise” among “highly interested parties attempting to pull the provisions in different directions.”  Perhaps those whose votes were needed for passage of the statute wanted a lawful purchaser to be able to use an agent. A statute shaped by political tradeoffs in a controversial area may appear “imperfect” from some perspectives, but “our ability to imagine ways of redesigning the statute to advance one of Congress’ ends does not render it irrational.” We must accept that Congress, balancing the conflicting demands of a divided citizenry, “ ‘wrote the statute it wrote’—meaning, a statute going so far and no further.”

That Abramski’s reading does not render the Act’s requirements “meaningless” is further evidenced by the fact that, for decades, even ATF itself did not read the statute to criminalize conduct like Abramski’s. After Congress passed the Act in 1968, ATF’s initial position was that the Act did not prohibit the sale of a gun to an eligible buyer acting on behalf of a third party (even an ineligible one). See Hearings Before the Subcommittee To Investigate Juvenile Delinquency of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 94th Cong., 1st Sess., pt. 1, 118 (1975). A few years later, ATF modified its position and asserted that the Act did not “prohibit a dealer from making a sale to a person who is actually purchasing the firearm for another person” unless the other person was “prohibited from receiving or possessing a firearm,” in which case the dealer could be guilty of “unlawfully aiding the prohibited person’s own violation.” ATF, Industry Circular 79–10 (1979), in (Your Guide To) Federal Firearms Regulation 1988–89 (1988), p. 78. The agency appears not to have adopted its current position until the early 1990's.

The majority deems this enforcement history “not relevant” because the Government’s reading of a criminal statute is not entitled to deference. But the fact that the agency charged with enforcing the Act read it, over a period of roughly 25 years, not to apply to the type of conduct at issue here is powerful evidence that interpreting the Act in that way is natural and reasonable and does not make its requirements “meaningless.”

And when in doubt, the dissenters urge, the "rule of lenity" should apply, an interpretive principle which states that ambiguous criminal statutes should be read narrowly in the defendant's favor:
[F]or the reasons given above, context and structure do not support the majority’s interpretation, history refutes it by showing that the Government itself interpreted the statute more leniently for many years, and “purpose” supports it only if one imputes to the statute a crime-fighting purpose broader than the text discloses (a practice that would nullify the rule of lenity in all cases). If lenity has no role to play in a clear case such as this one, we ought to stop pretending it is a genuine part of our jurisprudence.

Contrary to the majority’s miserly approach, the rule of lenity applies whenever, after all legitimate tools of interpretation have been exhausted, “a reasonable doubt persists” regarding whether Congress has made the defendant’s conduct a federal crime—in other words, whenever those tools do not decisively dispel the statute’s ambiguity. “[W]here text, structure, and history fail to establish that the Government’s position is unambiguously correct . . . we apply the rule of lenity and resolve the ambiguity in [the defendant]’s favor.”  It cannot honestly be said that the text, structure, and history of the Gun Control Act establish as “unambiguously correct” that the Act makes Abramski’s conduct a federal crime.

By refusing to apply lenity here, the majority turns its back on a liberty-protecting and democracy-promoting rule that is “perhaps not much less old than construction itself.” United States v. Wiltberger, 5 Wheat. 76, 95 (1820) (Marshall, C. J.); see, e.g., 1 W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England 88 (1765) (“Penal statutes must be construed strictly”). As Chief Justice Marshall wrote, the rule is “founded on the tenderness of the law for the rights of individuals; and on the plain principle that the power of punishment is vested in the legislative, not in the judicial department.” It forbids a court to criminalize an act simply because the court deems that act “of equal atrocity, or of kindred character, with those which are enumerated.” Today’s majority disregards that foundational principle.

Fourteen cases remain on the Court's docket to be decided this term.

Originally posted to Adam B on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:10 AM PDT.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA, Good News, Firearms Law and Policy, and Daily Kos.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  So nobody thinks such a law is unconstitutional? (9+ / 0-)

    The dissent only disagrees that the statute reaches straw purchasers?

    Retrospectives on 25th anniversary of Tiananmen at Chinafile.com

    by Inland on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:15:43 AM PDT

  •  This is an anti-gun decision that saves guns. (10+ / 0-)

    The 2nd Amendment itself has a serious "immateriality" objection, in that we have no well-organized militia.  It would look weird, at very least, to say there's no "immateriality" test there, but there is at the level of enforcement.

    It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

    by Rich in PA on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:19:11 AM PDT

    •  Rich.. I am slow... (6+ / 0-)

      Can you put this into a longer more.. um.. fluffy layman's.. analysis for those of us who are unfamiliar with looking at the "cutting edge" of legal decisions? In other words, I am just starting to understand the way in which legal decisions imply or leave alone the presuppositions of a body of law, and in fact, sometimes a legal decision in my favor can actually be a broader defeat for my position. But I need help with this...

      Thank you
      OO

      Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

      by OregonOak on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:24:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  So if you swore that you were a member of a well (7+ / 0-)

      organized militia (but were not) in order to legally purchase a gun --- wouldn't that be the same as swearing you were buying gun for yourself and not your sweet, sweet uncle.

      The 2ndA has been reduced to 'All guns for everyone immediately' -- the pendulum is swinging the other way (I hope) --- Wouldn't it be a hoot if well organized militia were defined and enforced in order to buy, sell, and keep arms.

      Don't send a teddy bear to the Martinez family, they don't want you to intrude on their grief - send a postcard to a politician Not One More

      by 88kathy on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:35:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well Organized Militia (8+ / 0-)

      That would be the National Guard.

      This aggression will not stand, man.

      by kaleidescope on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:50:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  We do have a well organized militia. It is the (5+ / 0-)

      National Guard.

      More importantly, we have a well REGULATED militia in the form of National Guard.

      And no inconsistency there, as the premise of the Second Amendment was to establish a National Defense.

      You really should read the laws, instead of relying on NRA/gun industry lies/law-illiterate gun-nuts' propaganda for the facts and truth.

      This is the country of those three great rights: freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and the wisdom never to exercise either of them. -- Mark Twain.

      by JJustin on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 10:09:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But unfortunately (7+ / 0-)

        Scalia and the usual suspects, joined by sometime swinger Kennedy, decided to pervert the clear intent of the authors of the Second Amendment and the clear historical record.  My olde diary here.   Heller and Citizens United and their other 5-4 decisions will some day go the way of Plessy v. Ferguson, Lochner v. New York and Hammer v. Dagenhart, their authors forgotten, while we honor the memories of the elder John Marshall Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Louis Brandeis.  Unfortunately, while we wait for that day, so many will die.

        "Corporations exist not for themselves, but for the people." Ida Tarbell 1908.

        by Navy Vet Terp on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 10:33:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Summing up Congress' debates of the writing of (3+ / 0-)

          the Second Amendment, its purpose to establish a National Defense relying on either a standing army or a well regulated militia, Congressman Elbridge Gerry said:

          What, sir, is the use of a militia?  It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty.
          Creating the Bill of Rights: The Documentary Record from the First Federal Congress (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, Paperback, 1991), Ed. by Helen E. Veit, Kenneth R. Bowling, and Charlene Bangs Bickford, at 182.

          This is the country of those three great rights: freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and the wisdom never to exercise either of them. -- Mark Twain.

          by JJustin on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 12:56:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Oddly, you've made this inaccurate claim twice. (0+ / 0-)
        the premise of the Second Amendment was to establish a National Defense.
        And made this swipe twice:
        You really should read the laws, instead of relying on NRA/gun industry lies/law-illiterate gun-nuts' propaganda for the facts and truth.
        Are you just copying and pasting to push claims that are neither historically correct and/or supported by 200 yrs of jurisprudence?
        New Hampshire clarifies this separate unalienable right here:
           XII. Congress shall never disarm any citizen, unless such as are or have been in actual rebellion.
        Virginia, North Carolina and Rhode Island go even further to grant those of religious scruples the power, if called to "bear arms", to hire someone in their steed. A very progressive ideal of a religious exemption!

            19th. That any person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms ought to be exempted upon payment of an equivalent to employ another to bear arms in his stead.

        Now if we are to take your position seriously.  That the 2nd A was to establish a national defense, then why'd they write that specific power out in Article I, Section 8, Clause 12???

        It's clear the "Bill of Rights", which includes the 2nd A,  were specifically written to protect individual rights from being abrogated by our created government.  What's even more evident is that the only time "arms" could be "regulated", by the Federal Government, was during training or actual defense of this nation, not at any other time or for any other contrived reason(s).

        As the Supreme Court decided in United States v. Cruikshank - 92 U.S. 542 (1875)

        6. The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The Second Amendments means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress, and has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the National Government.
        And the reaffirmed in DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA et al. v. HELLER
        (b) The prefatory clause comports with the Court’s interpretation of the operative clause. The “militia” comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens’ militia would be preserved. Pp. 22–28.

                 (c) The Court’s interpretation is confirmed by analogous arms-bearing rights in state constitutions that preceded and immediately followed the Second Amendment . Pp. 28–30.

        You see, to make your inaccurate claims here viable, we'd have to rewrite our entire history.  The Constitution and the "Bill of Rights" did not occur in a vacuum.  Currently there are 42 State Constitutions that protect an individual right to keep and bear arms.  This isn't a secret nor was the idea that self-defense and bearing arms to do so, go hand-in-hand.  

        Our founders understood what they thought they were doing.


        to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals

        -7.62; -5.95 The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.~Tesla

        by gerrilea on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 08:39:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The answer to your smarmy question is found (1+ / 0-)

          by reading the legislative history of the writing of the that which became the Second Amendment:

          Creating the Bill of Rights: The Documentary Record from the First Federal Congress (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, Paperback, 1991), Ed. by Helen E. Veit, Kenneth R. Bolling, and Charlene Bangs Bickford.

          We determine the intent of the writers of the Amendment by that which wrote it: the first Congress -- not by those who were not elected to that Congress, and were not in the room.

          The "right to keep and bear arms" to which you refer is incorporated in those state constitutions as MILITIA CLAUSES.  (And Pennsylvania's, for one, does not include "keep".)  A militia is not an individual; Militia Clauses have nothing to do with "individual" anything.

          In addition, the Federal Supremacy Clause trumps whatever subordinate law you want to misconstrue and belabor, including state constitutions.

          The Founders/Framers knew what they were doing.  That included, subsequent to ratification of the Second Amendment, enacting a lengthy list of statutes called "Militia Acts," their purpose being to well regulate the subject of the Amendment: the well regulated militia.

          This is one of those Militia Acts:

          Chap. LXV.--An Act providing Arms for the Militia throughout the United States.

            Section 1.  Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there shall be provided, at the charge and expense of the government of the United States, thirty thousand stand of arms, which shall be deposited by order of the President of the United States, at suitable places, for the purpose of being sold to the governments of the respective States, or the militia thereof, under such regulations, and at such prices as the President of the United States shall prescribe.
            Sec. 2.  And be it further enacted, That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby authorized to cause all or any part of the arms herein directed to be provided and deposited for sale, which shall, at any time, remain unsold, to be delivered to the militia, when called into the service of the United States, proper receipts and security being given for the return of the same.
            Sec. 3.  And be it further enacted, That the monies arising from such sales shall be paid into the treasury of the United States, and the amount received shall be annually reported to Congress.
            Sec. 4.  And be it further enacted, That for the purpose of carrying this act into effect, the President of the United States shall be, and he is hereby authorized to draw from the treasury of the United States, a [577] sum not exceeding four hundred thousand dollars, to be paid out of any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated.
            Approved, July 6, 1798.

          "The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845., Vol I." (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1850), By Authority of Congress, Edited by Richard Peters, at 576.

          Here's an earlier, state statute doing exactly the same thing:

          At a General Assembly begun and held at the Public Buildings in the City of Richmond, on Monday the 21st day of October, in the Year of our Lord 1782.

          Chap. XII.  

          An act for the recovery of arms and accoutrements belonging to the state.

          I.  Whereas sundry arms and accoutrements belonging to the public in the hands of individuals, who have neglected to return them to the proper officers; and it is necessary that such arms and accoutrements should be recovered as speedily as possible: Be it enacted, that the Governor do, on the passing of this act, issue his proclamation, enjoining all persons having in their possession any arms or accoutrements whatsoever, belonging to the state, to deliver them without delay to the Lieutenant or commanding officer of the county for the time being; and the sheriff of each county within this commonwealth, shall cause copies of the said proclamations, which shall be transmitted to him by the Executive, to be fixed up in the most public places in his county, and if after one month from such public notice having been given, any person possessing any such public arms or accoutrements, shall be convicted of having failed to deliver them up as aforesaid, such person shall, upon every such conviction, be liable to the penalty of twenty pounds, to be recovered by action of debt, bill, plaint, or information, in any court of record within this commonwealth, one half of which penalty shall go to the informer, on conviction of the offender, and the other half shall be applied in aid of the county levy where such offender shall reside.  And the Lieutenant, or commanding officer of each county, shall make returns from time to time, to the Executive, of all arms and accoutrements so delivered to him, and also deliver them to the order of the Executive, under the penalty, if he fail in all or any part of his duty, of fifty pounds, to be recovered as aforesaid, and applied in diminution of the county levy.  Provided always, that where muskets and bayonets have been by order of government placed in any county on eastern or western frontier for defence against incursions of the enemy, it shall be lawful for the Lieutenant or commanding officer to return such muskets and bayonets to the militia, taking a receipt from each person for what shall be so returned.

           

          A Collection of All Such Public Acts of the General Assembly, and Ordinances of the Conventions of Virginia, Passed since the year 1768, as are now in force; With a Table of the Principal Matters (Richmond: Thomas Nicolson and William Prentis, 1785); The First Laws of the State of Virginia (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, Inc., "The First Laws of the Original Thirteen States," 1982), Compiled by John D. Cushing, at 176.

          This is the country of those three great rights: freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and the wisdom never to exercise either of them. -- Mark Twain.

          by JJustin on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 10:11:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  No law or decision is "anti-gun" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tikkun, StevenD56, Smoh

      They are all anti-illegal and/or irresponsible gun purchase, carrying and usage. Just as abortion rights laws aren't "pro-abortion" (whereas anti-abortion laws are both). It's important to get the framing right on this.

      We're not against guns (most of us). We're against allowing people who shouldn't have guns to have them, and against certain kinds of guns being owned by people who shouldn't be able to own them.

      "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

      by kovie on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:53:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The young lady who did a straw purchase for (22+ / 0-)

    a former murderer, who then used the weapons to kill his sister and then attack several and kill two West Webster firefighters when they responded to his arson fire set to destroy her body, was only able to be convicted of falsifying documents at the local level.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/...

    The trial on Federal charges may now have a bit more bite; and that would make the community more satisfied.

    http://www.henriettapost.com/...

    If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever. & http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Okiciyap

    by weck on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:25:36 AM PDT

    •  Girlfriend as straw is big in Domestic Violence (10+ / 0-)

      Young woman vulnerable for some reason is befriended by man who can't legally buy a gun. Grooming her gradually, he convinces her to "shop with him", then to "handle a gun", then to know the names of a few guns.... and eventually asks her to "do a favor" just this once, and go pick up a gun for him.

      ...

      Later when they've bought and sold who knows how many guns he can abuse her anyway he wants threatening her with prosecution if the Feds every find out she was the straw purchaser. His name is not directly attached to any sale, and as long as he's careful it's very hard to prosecute him.

      People wonder why a battered woman might not leave. This is one example of a reason why some victims of DV will stay with a man who beats her, who cheats on her, who humiliates her, even someone she fears might kill her.  

      "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

      by LilithGardener on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:11:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wouldn't he be as guilty receiving a straw (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        allie4fairness, weck, LilithGardener, Smoh

        purchase as the person making the straw purchase?

        In order for him to give her up, he would have to prove she did it and he was always the one who received the straw gun so he's in it too.

        Don't send a teddy bear to the Martinez family, they don't want you to intrude on their grief - send a postcard to a politician Not One More

        by 88kathy on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:30:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  As stated... (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          weck, 88kathy, tikkun, LilithGardener, Smoh
          His name is not directly attached to any sale, and as long as he's careful it's very hard to prosecute him.
          And even if he wasn't really careful enough, the kind of personality that LillithGardener is talking about, could easily convince someone that he had been so careful, and the only person on the hook for the illegal purchases is her.

          It's like a molester telling the kid that they'll be the one to get in trouble, if they tell what happened to them - even an older kid who knows better, can be convinced it's true, by the right circumstances. The perception of some, is that a grown woman couldn't be so easily manipulated, and would know that if she is caught so will he be. But the reality of human psychology doesn't support that. The right kind of manipulator, can always convince others, that secrecy is the only way to save themselves - and we all know that wars and genocides have been built on such manipulations.

          •  I have to agree, if the person who receives the (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            tikkun

            straw purchase is not criminal, and a person can easily be forced to make a straw purchase, the jails will be crammed with women for making straw purchases.

            Don't send a teddy bear to the Martinez family, they don't want you to intrude on their grief - send a postcard to a politician Not One More

            by 88kathy on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 12:31:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  They can be charged as an accessory (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Smoh

              And if the reason they cannot own a gun is that they're a felon then they can be charged as a felon-in-possession as well.

              •  That would be the man in the analogy. (0+ / 0-)

                We're talking about what the woman would be charged with - i.e. the person manipulated into being the straw purchaser.

                And in fairness, we've seen ample evidence of this kind of manipulation, from the other gender - in the form of the women who have affairs with young men (or in some cases minor boys), and then convinced their lovers to kill their husbands.

        •  The abuser can lie and claim she got the guns (6+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          weck, 88kathy, tikkun, LilithGardener, Smoh, alx9090

          to passed them on to the third parties on her own.  The abuser was shocked, Just Shocked, to find out about it.  Abuse victims have a hard time knowing who they can trust and law enforcement is not necessarily on their side.

        •  He'd be guilty under section 922(g) for (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          88kathy, TRPChicago

          Possession only if the Feds catch him in possession.  If/when the gun turns up in a crime, it traces to her not to him. It's her name and signature on FFL form 4473, not his.

          A users are generally very manipulative, so threatening her with prosecution is just one tool in a bag of tricks. You have to remember that a DV relationship doesn't start out obviously violent. It starts with seduction.... He doesn't hit on the second date. By the time he convinces her that she can make a little money under the table buying guns for him she already trusts him. The betrayal and threats of betrayal come later, maybe even after she has married him.

          "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

          by LilithGardener on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 01:45:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Oh yes I found that out by personal experience. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            LilithGardener

            It starts out with a pinch here and there. And he took all my iced teaspoons because he found out they were my favorite. It opened my eyes to what it is, but luck was on my side and I got out.

            All I am saying is that in order for it to be a straw purchase, there would have to be a person who it was straw purchased for and the abuser would have to give up that person too in order to make good his threat.

            The straw purchase law seems like a straw in the wind if the person who makes it a straw purchase (the one who ultimately gets the gun) doesn't go down too.

            But then I think that people arrested for prostitution should be in 2s. That it can't be prostitution unless it is 2 people. But that's just me and I am one of the few people that hates Pretty Woman. Really hates Pretty Woman.

            Don't send a teddy bear to the Martinez family, they don't want you to intrude on their grief - send a postcard to a politician Not One More

            by 88kathy on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 02:04:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  In practical reality one would have to be (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              88kathy

              Persuaded to testify against the other in order to even have a chance at conviction.

              "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

              by LilithGardener on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 04:12:49 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Do you have... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LilithGardener

        links you could share?

        Stupid...it's the new smart for right wingers.

        by StevenD56 on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 02:11:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  So all this does is preserve and maybe clarify (22+ / 0-)

    the current law.

    Which, considering this court, is a victory.

    How far we've fallen.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:28:41 AM PDT

    •  Whoo hooo. nt (4+ / 0-)

      Retrospectives on 25th anniversary of Tiananmen at Chinafile.com

      by Inland on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 10:05:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  True, but against this full-bore challenge ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zenbassoon, LilithGardener

      ... by the pro-gun interests - consider those friends of the Court briefs - this IS a victory. At stake was the heart of Congress's Gun Control laws.

      J. Kagan's opinion was brilliant. She taught us a careful, scholarly approach to how to read a statute. It was the Naysayers who argued that it was a cheese full of (loop)holes that should not stand. She set that straight.

      And if Scalia and his minority had their choice, it would have been a stake in the heart of gun reform.

      2014 is HERE. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

      by TRPChicago on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 04:46:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Scalia: (15+ / 0-)
    no English speaker would say that the store “sells” the milk and eggs to me
    WTF? No English speaker?
    Glad the Five on the (Center) Left got this right. Now if there was a way to track the next purchase, the private sales, we might be able to dry up the black market, at least some.
    BTW, either the diary or the quote is misnaming the defendant: "Adamski" Vs "Abramski".

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:29:06 AM PDT

  •  Scalia (12+ / 0-)

    Is Scalia being disingenuous here? It might not be common usage for someone to say a store sold you milk when you gave your son 10 dollars to buy it for you but I also think any English speaking adult would say you bought the milk. I mean if you were to object based on that difference that would be the height of a semantic argument.

  •  So, let's be clear here: Antonin "Tony" Scalia is (16+ / 0-)

    against recourse to legislative history except when he's for it.

    Only an intellectually dishonest stench such as Scalia could draw a crooked line straight.

    This is the country of those three great rights: freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and the wisdom never to exercise either of them. -- Mark Twain.

    by JJustin on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 09:48:06 AM PDT

  •  Thanks nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LilithGardener, allie4fairness

    I voted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 because it is my right, my responsibility and because my parents moved from Alabama to Ohio to vote. Unfortunately, the republicons want to turn Ohio into Alabama.

    by a2nite on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 10:03:38 AM PDT

  •  Good news - republished. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jan4insight, LilithGardener, tikkun



    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 10:16:38 AM PDT

  •  So... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LilithGardener, tikkun

    you gonna write something up about this?  9-0 decision, huh.  This seems bad, though I can easily see the Ohio law being abused by Jon Husted to use PolitiFact logic to claim a certain statement is false from a liberal group and sue them for it.

  •  It's not Milk and Eggs (9+ / 0-)

    It's a gun - and while this exact case probably isn't the intent of the law - the law is the law.  The intent of the is to keep guns out of the hands of criminals - which is true - to achieve that goal, the law targets straw buyers - not just those with criminal intent.  It may be unfortunate but considering the guy was an ex-policeman - he should have known better, regardless, one cannot use ignorance in their own self-defense.

    The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

    by ctexrep on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 10:18:09 AM PDT

    •  But....but....... (7+ / 0-)

      ...

      considering the guy was an ex-policeman - he should have known better
      Being an ex-policeman, he still believed he was above all laws!

      I guess they need a little more rope

      by suspiciousmind on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 10:44:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're probably correct (3+ / 0-)

        he figured he wasn't really doing anything wrong......again, in this particular case - I think it's the reason we have courts...juries - to make decisions.

        I'm not that familiar with this law - if there are minimum sentencing requirements etc - but considering it went to the Supreme Court- it's due process at work.

        I once worked at a job that had mandatory drug testing - I wouldn't take an aspirin unless I double checked.

        The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. - Thomas Jefferson

        by ctexrep on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:00:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Abramski knew very well what he was doing. (0+ / 0-)

          That is why he consulted three - count 'em three - Federal gun dealers who, Abramski averred, all told him that the sale he was considering was OK. When, in law, in fact, in practice It. Was. Not.

          2014 is HERE. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

          by TRPChicago on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 05:00:59 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Same as very many other Americans. (0+ / 0-)

        Americans like to pick and choose the government laws they follow and to what degree about as much as they do religious laws.  And when they get caught going 80 on a 65mph highway (alongside most everyone else) they complain and say things like, "why you pickin' on me? Everyone else was going 80 too!"  or "Don't you guys have better things to do than worry about me when there's bad guys out there?"  

        America, where a rising tide lifts all boats! Unless you don't have a boat...uh...then it lifts all who can swim! Er, uh...um...and if you can't swim? SHAME ON YOU!

        by Back In Blue on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:56:57 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Predictable. N/T (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rduran
  •  Lenity (5+ / 0-)

    To hear Scalia and Thomas or Alito talk about lenity is some cruel joke. The have interpreted all laws favoring corporations in the most strict and narrow way, they´ve showed no leniency for anyone, but now someone who did lie in a federal application has to be shown leniency because is gun related

  •  IMPEACH KAGAN! IMPEACH ... uh ... THE OTHER GUYS (3+ / 0-)

    You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

    by Cartoon Peril on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:08:46 AM PDT

  •  Tipped & rec'ed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    i saw an old tree today

    I voted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 because it is my right, my responsibility and because my parents moved from Alabama to Ohio to vote. Unfortunately, the republicons want to turn Ohio into Alabama.

    by a2nite on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:12:40 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for reporting this, Adam (4+ / 0-)

    Republished to Firearms Law and Policy.

    "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” — William Arthur Ward

    by LilithGardener on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:15:01 AM PDT

  •  But the 4 stooges voted no, eh? At least this was (6+ / 0-)

    one of Kennedy's lucid moments. Pity it will probably be into Hillary's second term before Scalia can be replaced. I imagine he'll have himself wheeled into the chambers with an oxygen tank if necessary. Kennedy might retire in 2017 (especially if Hillary wins big).

  •  Scalia's ridiculous premise (7+ / 0-)

    He thinks that milk and eggs are just like guns. That dipshit will say anything to support his radical ideology.

    Republican Health Care Plan: marry a Canadian.

    by shoeless on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:18:06 AM PDT

  •  Thursday is going to be a big day (4+ / 0-)

    We hopefully will get rulings on Hobby Lobby v Sebelius, ABC v Aereo and Riley v California v Wurie.

    Should be quite the morning.  They start getting handed out at 10:00 if anyone is following these.

    Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

    by Wisper on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:20:19 AM PDT

  •  The 4 Koch-holes voted no??? ahhhh nuts! n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JML9999, roberb7, mungley

    The Republican Party is run by the KOCH BROTHERS.

    by unclebucky on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:20:59 AM PDT

  •  Elections have consequences. (7+ / 0-)

    I doubt that McCains two justices would have decided in the same way.

    "In 20 years, the GOP will be small enough to drown in a bathtub." - me

    by estamm on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:28:04 AM PDT

  •  Scalia skips the 'buying beef for minors' argument (6+ / 0-)

    Scalia uses eggs and milk, but completely skips a 'buying beer for minors' example which would be more relevant.

  •  Dear Justice Scalia: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Inland, allie4fairness, Amber6541

    Did you really just pull the old, "Why do we do it this way? Because it's always been done that way." line? Seriously. You do realize that's pretty much the worst reason in the world to do ANYTHING, right?  

    And while I'm inquiring; are you REALLY going to equate the purchase of eggs and milk - neither of which are deadly weapons which require background checks or permits to buy - with buying a gun? I wonder how you'd feel about your arguments, if someone making crystal meth hired several people to go and buy a bunch of Pseudoephedrine, to avoid having the purchases tracked to them - because technically speaking, no one involved in the transaction wasn't legally allowed to buy it.

    If the courts have been lenient on this point before, that speaks very ill of the courts and their ability to make a valid and rational decision. It does NOT suggest we should continue doing something monumentally stupid, like letting a person avoid the process involved in making sure only responsible and lawful people own guns, by having someone else buy it for them.

    P.S. Here's looking forward to your retirement.

    •  Not the best analogy (0+ / 0-)
      I wonder how you'd feel about your arguments, if someone making crystal meth hired several people to go and buy a bunch of Pseudoephedrine, to avoid having the purchases tracked to them - because technically speaking, no one involved in the transaction wasn't legally allowed to buy it.
      You are describing "structuring" (known colloquially as smurfing) which is already a felony.  You can get 20  years for this under 21 U.S.C. Sec 841 and it is REGULARLY enforced.

      It relies on the the language

      Any person who knowingly or intentionally possesses or distributes a listed chemical knowing, or having reasonable cause to believe, that the listed chemical will be used to manufacture a controlled substance . . . shall be fined in accordance with Title 18 or imprisoned not more than 20 years . . . .
      This distinction would actually help argue against today's ruling in that the person involved in the SCOTUS case had direct knowledge and clear intent on passing the gun on to a legally eligible buyer.

      The smurfs who empty out boxes of Sudafed capsules and pass the zip-lock baggies onto a meth chemist can not reasonably make that claim.

      Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

      by Wisper on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:57:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Reasonable cause to believe.... (0+ / 0-)

        ... is exactly my point. That is exactly the kind of grey area, that Scalia is talking about skating around.

        What if you asked a bunch of friends and family to buy you the pills, with no information on what they were for? He's arguing that the reasonable cause to believe they were circumventing a law gives the out - that was precisely my point.

  •  As with all decisions that aren't 100% pro gun (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TofG, tikkun, i saw an old tree today

    the NRA will soon remind us that this can only mean one thing - Barack Obama is coming for your guns.

    •  This IS a pro-gun decision (3+ / 0-)

      Any decision that upholds the lawful right of sane and responsible people to lawfully buy, own and use the sorts of guns that it makes sense for everyday people to own, and denies it to those who who do not have such a right and/or for guns no one should have, is a pro-gun decision.

      "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

      by kovie on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 11:56:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh but c'mon now (0+ / 0-)

        You must know that's not how it will be spun...

        •  I could care less (0+ / 0-)

          This is counter-spin. We need to do more of that.

          "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

          by kovie on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 12:45:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  From your post to the media's ears (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            i saw an old tree today

            In the few moments devoted to such an issue, they'd probably much prefer an angry Wayne LaPierre or any angry gun rights advocate to a happy Moms Demand Action rep.  

            •  Repubs come across as combative and tough (0+ / 0-)

              even if also as jerks. Dems tend to come across as whiny and soft even if also as more decent. Most peoples' brains are wired to respect and be swayed by the former than the latter. It's the survival instinct. Most Dems still don't get that, after nearly 50 years of mostly trying to appeal to peoples' better angels. You have to win over peoples' reptilian brains before you can win over their more refined and moral natures. You have to gain their respect before you gain their affection. Why don't most Dems get this?

              "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

              by kovie on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 06:02:05 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Expect a rider (0+ / 0-)

    carving out an exception for cases like Abramski's.

  •  Straw-purchasing is a big, big problem... (5+ / 0-)

    Along with private sales and the "gun show loophole," straw-buying is a serious problem that contributes to exactly the kind of situation that even the NRA "claims" to want to avoid. Guns in the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. Studies have shown that many licensed gun dealers have, or would, knowingly-allow a straw purchase in their store. That's unacceptable.

    I hope this ruling encourages law enforcement to crack down on this shit. We can't do much with the NRA owning Congress, but we can do this. A no-brainer, since it has no effect on those who are law-abiding gun owners.

    •  the heart of the matter (0+ / 0-)

      We have 9 guns for every 10 people in this country.
      A handgun lasts roughly 100 years.
      To think that you need to BUY a gun (and not, say, inherit from grandpa) you really have to be insane.
      The only people left to sell to are the nutcases.
      It's for precisely this reason that the gun industry (correctly!) recognizes restrictions on the purchasing of guns by the mentally ill as an existential threat.

      •  No, there are still plenty of legitimate sales... (0+ / 0-)

        Gun ownership may be declining overall, but there are still plenty of people who take up hunting or sport shooting or whatever without any guns inherited from Grandpa. Sure, though, I agree it might be good for people to look for used guns before buying new, just as an effort to not contribute to the saturation levels.

  •  responsible gun owners (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mungley, TRPChicago, Eric Nelson

    The most common reason gun owners give as why they need little regulation is that most gun owners are responsible, an arguable but not totally unreasonable position. After all, most guns in America are not used in the commission of a crime. But if this argument is to retain merit, then it would seem that responsible gun owners should actively seek opportunity to act responsibly as with complying with the limited regulation they insist is satisfactory. It seems to me that is the issue underscoring this decision. Responsible gun owners must act responsibly regarding the letter of these limited regulations, or they are proving that these limited regulations are not in fact satisfactory, because they are not as responsible as they claim and will not even abide by regulation when they easily can. So much for responsible gun owners as an argument for limited regulation.

  •  I had a straw gun once. (0+ / 0-)

    It burst into flames the first time I used it. Best to stick with steel.

    Obi Ben Ghazi to House Republicans: "Use the Farce."

    by edg on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 03:13:06 PM PDT

  •  Since when does Scalia depend on an agency.. (2+ / 0-)

    ..like the ATF to structure his opinion on third party sales?..

    The majority deems this enforcement history “not relevant” because the Government’s reading of a criminal statute is not entitled to deference. But the fact that the agency charged with enforcing the Act read it, over a period of roughly 25 years, not to apply to the type of conduct at issue here is powerful evidence that interpreting the Act in that way is natural and reasonable and does not make its requirements “meaningless.”
    ..and also playing/nit-picking over grammer?
    And even if we were prepared to let “principles of agency law” trump ordinary English usage..
    Or this on "the rule of lenity": Where Scalia's creative forgetfulness of his own stance on re-interpreting and correcting what Scalia believes were prior mistaken rulings as he quotes Justice Marshall:
    As Chief Justice Marshall wrote, the rule is “founded on the tenderness of the law for the rights of individuals; and on the plain principle that the power of punishment is vested in the legislative, not in the judicial department.” It forbids a court to criminalize an act simply because the court deems that act “of equal atrocity, or of kindred character, with those which are enumerated.” Today’s majority disregards that foundational principle.
    Scalia is two faced on that last Marshall referrence. I can't find it now but Scalia has made the point that he doesn't hesitate to challenge precedent. He stated unequivocally that it is his duty to make "corrections". That he is not bound by precedent that he sees as wrongly decided  

    Thx Adam B  

     - good deal; Justice Kagan makes a lot of sense to this carpenter

  •  you know every time I think (0+ / 0-)

    that Scalia's logic can't get any worse he proves me wrong.

    Der Weg ist das Ziel

    by duhban on Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 04:58:06 PM PDT

  •  The dissent is correct. (0+ / 0-)

    Congress wrote the law in a really questionable way, which allows someone to get out of the falsifying charge if it wasn't material.  That's... really strange. Shouldn't lying on an affidavit always be a crime?

    The majority essentially said the plain wording of the law was nonsensical, so they adopted a reading that would not cause problems for the straw purchasing regime.  The dissent would read the law as it was actually written.

    Ultra-small stakes, all things considered (Who does this even impact besides this one defendant?) so it would have been nice to tell congress to fix the law instead of straining credulity to keep it functional.

    Lesson to draw from this: make lying on any form you mandate in legislation an unambiguous crime, and then use prosecutorial discretion to avoid charging people for writing the wrong date and such.

    •  No, the majority read the law for the sense of it. (0+ / 0-)

      It was Abramski who would interpret the law largely out of meaning. There'd be almost no limitation on persons prohibited from owning firearms if Abramski's view - to trust the buyer's pledge, right or wrong - was the law.

      If the buyer in front of the dealer can resell by pre-arrangement - those are the Abramski facts - there's no limit to straw purchasers.

      And Yes, if you lie on a Federal form and the penalty is a crime, you're guilty of it. In this particular case, Abramski got off very light, probably because of the earlier history of him with state and Federal law enforcement.

      2014 is HERE. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

      by TRPChicago on Wed Jun 18, 2014 at 09:57:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The clear text of the statute in question (0+ / 0-)

        ...specified:

        To ensure the accuracy of those sub - missions, a federal statute imposes criminal penalties on any person who, in connection with a firearm’s acquisition, makes false statements about “any fact material to the lawfulness of the sale.”
        The problem was, the false statement was not a fact material to the lawfulness of the sale (the actual sale was in fact legal.)
        •  The sale to Abramski was not legal because ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... prior to that sale, he had a deal with his uncle to buy a gun for him. It might have gone unnoticed, except that Bruce Abramski received the check from his uncle before he went to the dealer to buy the gun.

          What he was charged with - and pled guilty to - and was convicted of was misrepresenting himself and his interest on that Federal form.

          J. Scalia - and Abramski's very competent appellate counsel - wanted to make the case about Uncle Angel Alvarez being able to pass a background check. So, the logic goes, even though Abramski lied on the form, it's all OK because uncle could pass the check too. Except that (1) He did lie on the form, (2) Can a gun buyer really be sure of that little BC matter? (3) Why should we, the public for whom this law is written, trust him? And (4) as J. Kagan pointed out, reading that exception into the law would virtually eviscerate the law on straw purchasing guns.

          The identity of the true buyer of a firearm from a Federal dealer is material to the lawfulness of the sale. Five justices made that the law this week. In fact, the buyer's identity is rather important to the system Congress was able - in the face of considerable lobbying - to craft.

          2014 is HERE. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

          by TRPChicago on Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 01:54:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  4 isn't the court's problem. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            nextstep
            (4) as J. Kagan pointed out, reading that exception into the law would virtually eviscerate the law on straw purchasing guns.
            This isn't something the court should consider.  It's not their responsibility to fix badly written laws.
            •  The identity of the buyer IS the key ... (0+ / 0-)

              ... to Sec. 922's set of prohibitions.

              Straw buyers conceal who the true buyer is. For Congress, the buyer's identity is critical and the buyer standing in front of the dealer is supposed to be the true buyer. Nothing subtle or imperfect there.

              J. Scalia would have Federal gun dealers overlook straw purchases. Under J. Scalia's approach, it wouldn't make any difference that one buyer is buying for another. Period. That approach doesn't have to do only with whether the next buyer can pass a background check. (That's what was disingenuous about Abramski's legal position.) Scalia also argued - an argument the majority rejected - that the only relevant buyer was Abramski, straw or not. Yet under the facts of this case, Abramski was only an agent, not the true buyer!

              I believe the majority (for whom J. Kagan was writing; the majority opinion isn't a solo-Justice product!) was unwilling to eviscerate the statute. It needn't, to find Abramski guilty of a felony.

              2014 is HERE. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

              by TRPChicago on Fri Jun 20, 2014 at 02:55:00 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Wow! (0+ / 0-)

    It amazes me that lying on a government form actually made it all the way to the Supreme Court. Who the heck ARE these people?

  •  Constitutionality? (0+ / 0-)

    Seems to me to be a gross mischaracterization of the issues of the case to say "the Supreme Court of the United States approved the constitutionality" of the straw purchase law.  I don't see where the law's constitutionality was ever raised as an issue in this case, nor was it decided.  

    This was a narrowly-focused case in which Abramski claimed the straw purchase law did not apply under the circumstances of the gun purchase he made.  The court disagreed and ruled that the law did apply.  

    This decision was a blow to Abramski and not to anyone else.  

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site