The unintentional discharge of firearms injured 75,685 Americans and caused the deaths of 776 others in 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). More than 40 percent of those injured every year are age 25 and younger. Accident causes include children playing with guns and negligent manufacturing. A jury held the manufacturer liable when a California boy was accidentally shot when his babysitter attempted to remove a bullet from a weapon. Cases like this hold manufacturers liable for negligence. However, federal law approved in 2005 exempts firearm manufacturers, distributors, dealers and importers from civil liability for product-related injuries and deaths. Gun control advocates expect that the law will be challenged.
Straw Purchases Are Serious Offenses
The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) enforces federal laws and regulations relating to firearms and explosives. The Gun Control Act of 1968 (also known as GCA or GCA68) is a federal law in the United States that broadly regulates the firearms industry and firearms owners. It primarily focuses on regulating interstate commerce in firearms by generally prohibiting interstate firearms transfers except among licensed manufacturers, dealers and importers. In the Gun Control Act there is a straw purchase clause.
A straw purchase is a situation in which a buyer uses an intermediary (a “straw purchaser”) through which to acquire one or more firearms from a licensed firearms dealer. The purpose is to hide the identity of the true purchaser or ultimate possessor of the firearm(s). Straw purchases and theft are common ways that prohibited people, such as convicted felons, obtain firearms.
In the United States, straw purchases are a felony violation of the Gun Control Act of 1968 for both the straw purchaser, who can also be charged with lying on Federal Form 4473, and the ultimate possessor.
Many gun shops have jointly participated in programs to deter such purchases.
Key Signs of a Straw Purchaser:
• The customer seems preoccupied as if he or she is trying to remember something they were supposed to get.
• The customer seems ignorant about firearms and has no real desire to learn about them.
• The customer comes into the store, notes the cheapest guns and then comes back with money.
• The customer attempts to buy multiple handguns that cost less than $200 each.
• The customer walks in with somebody who directs them on what to buy for them.
If a shopkeeper notices any of these signs, they have the right to refuse the sale regardless of the results of the NICS background check.
There is a national campaign that addresses the issues around straw purchases. It is called The Don’t Lie for the Other Guy program. The program was developed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) in coordination with the ATF in that Bureau’s efforts to combat the criminal misuse of firearms. The program is an important tool for ATF as they pursue their mission of preventing terrorism, reducing violent crime, and protecting the public through Project Safe Neighborhoods and other initiatives.
The criminal misuse of firearms is a problem. Reports by ATF and the U.S. Department of Justice indicate that criminals illegally obtain guns from a variety of sources, including stealing them and getting them from friends and family members. Some firearms used in urban centers were originally sold at retail in many other states and illegally trafficked to criminals in those urban areas. That’s why Don’t Lie is a national program addressed at the seriousness of straw purchases.
The following data is according to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Statistics latest report about the use of firearms by Federal and State prison inmates:
During the offense that brought them to prison, 15% of State inmates and 13% of Federal inmates carried a handgun, and about 2%, a military-style semiautomatic gun.
On average, State inmates possessing a firearm received sentences of 18 years, while those without a weapon had an average sentence of 12 years.
Among prisoners carrying a firearm during their crime, 40% of State inmates and 56% of Federal inmates received a sentence enhancement because of the firearm.
Of those who possessed some type of firearm over 40% of the inmates stated that they had obtained the weapon from a family member or friend. A legal team that specializes in this area of the law can assist individuals identify if they have been a victim of gun violence associated with a straw purchase.