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Gun Control Laws Pros and Cons: Supreme Court Rules Against 'Straw' Purchases of Guns

First Posted: Jun 16, 2014 05:12 PM EDT

On Monday, advocates for stronger gun control celebrated the Supreme Court decision in Abramski v. United States, which upheld the illegality of "straw" purchases of guns.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that one legal gun owner may not buy a firearm on behalf of another person, a practice known as "straw" purchasing. The majority of the justices upheld a lower court's conviction of former Virginia police officer Bruce Abramski, who purchased a Glock 19 handgun for his uncle. Although both men had gun permits, Abramski claimed under federal law that he was the "actual transferee/buyer" of the firearm; he was later convicted of making false statements. 

Abramski argued that federal gun laws did not apply to his transaction, but the high court disagreed.

"No piece of information is more important under federal firearms law than the identity of a gun's purchaser -- the person who acquires a gun as a result of a transaction with a licensed dealer," Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the majority, according to The Hill

The dissenting justices, all from the conservative bloc of the court, said the federal law in question does not distinguish between people who purchased guns for themselves and "straw buyers" who intend to pass the guns on to someone else.

In his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia argued that current gun laws don't support the majority's finding. 

"The court makes it a federal crime for one lawful gun owner to buy a gun for another lawful gun owner," he wrote, reports USA Today. "Whether or not that is a sensible result, the statutes Congress enacted do not support it -- especially when, as is appropriate, we resolve ambiguity in those statutes in favor of the accused." 

In response to the ruling, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which supports firearm regulation, praised the ruling as a victory over the "corporate gun lobby."

"This is a very big and very positive decision that will save lives by keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Once again the Supreme Court rejected efforts by the corporate gun lobby to undermine federal gun laws, reaffirming that sensible laws can have a big impact while being consistent with the Second Amendment," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

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