Straw Purchases: The Real Deal

Understanding Straw Purchases for Guns/Firearms

What Is A Straw Purchase?
When a buyer uses an illegal “straw purchaser” to acquire a firearm on their behalf, he or she is in violation of federal law. More accurately, when someone uses another straw purchaser to complete Form 4473, both the person completing the form and the person who will ultimately receive the firearm are violators.

Example Of An Illegal Straw Purchase
Sometimes, straw purchasers are used to purchase a firearm because a person is prohibited from possession. This can include a convicted felon or a person who resides in a state where possession would be illegal. An example provided by the BATFE:

“Mr. Smith asks Mr. Jones to purchase a firearm for Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith gives Mr. Jones the money for the firearm. If Mr. Jones fills out Form 4473, he violates the law by falsely stating that he is the actual buyer of the firearm. Mr. Smith also violates the law because he has unlawfully aided and abetted or caused the making of false statements on the form.”

Other Factors Relevant To Straw Purchases
It does not matter that the actual purchaser and the straw purchaser are residents of the State in which the gun store is located, are not prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms, and could have lawfully purchased the firearm from the gun store. Remember, the person completing the Form 4473 MUST be the actual person purchasing the firearm.

Exceptions That Are Not Straw Purchases
An illegal straw purchase does not occur if the person purchasing the firearm does so with the intent of making it a gift. This goes back to the original issue of who is the actual purchaser. In this case, the original purchaser is in fact the actual purchaser. Back to the BATFE example:

“[I]f Mr. Jones had bought a firearm with his own money to give to Mr. Smith as a birthday present, Mr. Jones could lawfully have completed Form 4473.”

Additionally, the use of gift certificates would also NOT fall under the category of illegal straw purchases. The person redeeming the gift certificate would be the actual purchaser of the firearm and thereby would be acting appropriately when completing the Form 4473.

Be Careful Of Straw Purchases
Many people think any purchase for someone else is an illegal straw purchase. However, as the BATFE has explained, in some cases (such as gifts or with gift certificates) these purchases are permissible. Also keep in mind that the BATFE has the burden of proof in these situations, so they must prove the elements of an illegal straw purchase.