In 2009, former police officer Bruce Abramski purchased a Glock handgun for his uncle using a law enforcement discount at a Virginia gun dealer. When authorities learned of the transaction, they charged Abramski with straw purchasing, on the grounds that he had lied on the federal firearm purchase form on a question asking whether he was the actual buyer of the gun. Abramski pleaded guilty to the charges but appealed the conviction, arguing that the prohibition on straw purchasing shouldn’t apply to him, because his uncle, a Pennsylvania resident, was allowed to own guns, meaning there was no unlawful component to the transaction.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit rejected Abramski’s argument and upheld his conviction in January 2013. Abramski filed a petition for the Supreme Court to review the case in June 2013, which the Court granted at the start of its October term. Twenty-six states joined an amicus brief in support of Abramski’s position, while nine states and the District of Columbia filed a brief supporting the government. The Brady Center was the only gun violence prevention group to file an amicus brief, which was prepared by attorneys with the firm of Covington & Burling, and joined by the Major Cities Chiefs Association and the International Brotherhood of Police Officers.
The Supreme Court accepted the arguments made in the Brady Center’s brief and ruled 5-4 on June 16, 2014 that it is a violation of law to lie on the federal firearm purchase form about the identity of a gun’s actual buyer. This was the second Supreme Court victory for the Brady Center in 2014; in March, the Court ruled unanimously in United States v. Castleman that the federal ban on gun possession by convicted domestic violence offenders extends beyond crimes of physical violence, and includes convictions for offensive touching.