A Straw Purchase of a Firearm is a Federal Felony

A “Straw Purchase” of a firearm occurs when one person purchases a gun on behalf of or acts as if they were another person.

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Helping Another Person Purchase a Firearm Can Result in Prison Time

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), a straw purchase occurs when the actual buyer uses another person (“straw purchaser”) to execute the firearm transaction forms used when purchasing a firearm. A person convicted of engaging in an illegal straw purchase of a gun is guilty of a federal felony and might have to serve years in federal prison.

In many cases, a straw purchase of a firearm occurs when someone fills out a Firearm Transaction Report (Form 4473) purporting to show that the straw purchaser is the actual purchaser of the firearm. In some instances, the actual purchaser is within one of the prohibited categories of persons who may not lawfully acquire firearms, such as a felon or a resident of a state other than where the licensee’s business premises is located. In other instances, neither the straw purchaser nor the actual purchaser is prohibited from acquiring the firearm, but the actual purchaser wishes to conceal their identity.

Illegal Purchase Penalties

The Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), codified at 18 U.S.C. 922(a)(6), makes it unlawful for any person in connection with the acquisition or attempted acquisition of any firearm or ammunition from a licensee to make any false or fictitious oral or written statement knowingly or to furnish or exhibit any false, fictitious, or misrepresented identification, intended or likely to deceive such importer, manufacturer, dealer, or collector concerning any fact material to the lawfulness of the sale or other disposition of such firearm or ammunition.

  • Engaging or Participating in a Straw Purchase of a Firearm – Felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison
  • Engaging or Participating in a Straw Purchase of a Firearm for a Prohibited Person – up to 15 years in prison
  • Engaging or Participating in a Straw Purchase of a Firearm to be used in an act of terrorism or drug trafficking crime – up to 25 years

“What is the straw purchase of a firearm?”

A straw purchase of a firearm can occur through oral and written statements. Oral statements are those statements a “straw purchaser” makes verbally regarding a firearm’s purchase. Whether handwritten or electronic, written statements are made on documents such as the ATF Form 4473. Generally, Form 4473 is required to transfer a firearm from a licensee to an unlicensed transferee/buyer.

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Form 4473, Question 21

Form 4473, question 21.a., requires the transferee/buyer to certify – by answering “Yes” or “No” – whether they are the actual transferee/buyer of the firearm(s) listed on the form and any continuation sheet(s) (ATF Form 5300.9A), if applicable, and provides this warning:

“Warning: You are not the actual transferee/buyer if you are acquiring the firearm(s) on behalf of another person. If you are not the actual transferee/buyer, the licensee cannot transfer the firearm(s) to you. Exception: If you are only picking up a repaired firearm(s) for another person, you are not required to answer 21.a. and may proceed to question 21.b.”

If you knowingly make a false attestation that you are purchasing the firearm for yourself, you qualify as an illegal straw purchaser of a firearm.

Is a person the actual purchaser or a straw purchaser of a firearm?

A person is the actual transferee/buyer if they purchase or acquire the firearm for themselves, such as redeeming the gun from pawn, retrieving it from consignment, or firearm raffle winner, or legitimately purchasing the firearm as a “bona fide” gift for a third party.

A gift is not “bona fide” if another person offered or gave the person completing this form money or something of value to acquire the firearm for them or if the other person is prohibited by law from receiving or possessing the firearm. Whether the actual buyer is prohibited is irrelevant. If someone pays another person to purchase a gun or gives them something of value, they’ve engaged in the straw purchase of a firearm.

What is a “prohibited person” relative to a straw firearm purchase?

It is illegal, thus a straw purchase of a firearm, to sell or give a firearm or ammunition to any person someone knows to be:

  • under indictment for or convicted of a felony (defined as a crime punishable by more than one year regardless of what it is called)
  • a fugitive from justice
  • a user or addict of illegal drugs
  • adjudicated as mentally defective or has been committed to a mental institution
  • is illegally or unlawfully in the United States
  • in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa
  • dishonorably discharged from the U.S. military,
  • someone who has renounced their U.S. citizenship,
  • is subject to a domestic-type restraining order (under certain circumstances)
  • convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (including a same-sex domestic partnership)
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Michigan Firearms Defense Attorneys

The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has decades of experience successfully defending clients on firearm charges in state and federal courts throughout Michigan. While prosecutors and judges might be aggressive and zealous when seeking to punish someone perceived as violating firearm laws, our defense lawyers are even more aggressive in protecting our client’s Second Amendment rights. Call us for a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney if you face allegations related to the possession, sale, transfer, purchase, or use of a firearm in state or federal court. We will find a way to help you!

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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