More than two dozen states and a U.S. territory have filed a brief in a lawsuit against the federal government regarding legal gun purchases and transfers.
The issue concerns the federal government’s attempt to prosecute those who legally buy guns with the intention of selling them to another person who can legally own them.
The Obama administration claims this makes the original buyer a “straw purchaser,” and that such an action is illegal under federal law. But the states argue that federal law only prohibits private citizens from selling guns to those who cannot legally own them, such as minors, felons, or the mentally ill.
The office of Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia’s attorney general, issued a press release saying the federal government’s actions are wrong because Congress have never spoken to the issue.
“We believe that every legal gun owner in this state and nation should be interested in the outcome of this case,” Morrisey said in the release. “Our Office is very concerned about the federal government’s targeting of law-abiding gun buyers. The federal government is attempting to circumvent Congress and set aside state regulations that don’t prevent private gun sales, and instead make sure there is a federal record of every gun bought or sold in the United States.
“While no one wants guns to end up in the hands of a potential or real criminal, the administration’s interpretation oversteps the law and could make criminals out of innocent citizens.”
The case, Abramski v. United States of America, originated with Bruce Abramski, a former Roanoke, Va., police officer who bought a gun in 2009 using his law enforcement discount and then sold it to his elderly uncle, who lived in Pennsylvania. Both were legally allowed to own firearms, but the federal government prosecuted Abramski, accusing him of making false statements on the gun purchase form.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld Abramski’s conviction in January 2013, arguing such “straw purchases” are illegal under federal law. In October, the Supreme Court agreed to review the case. Oral arguments are scheduled for Jan. 22, with a ruling to come by the end of the court’s session in June.
“This case is important to West Virginia citizens who wish to practice their Second Amendment rights and sell firearms to other legal West Virginia gun owners,” Patrick Morrisey said in the release. “The State of West Virginia does not discourage private gun sales, but the Department of Justice wants to ensnare innocent West Virginian gun owners in a web of criminal laws if they try to sell their guns. This federal overreach is a blatant attempt to overstep state regulations and Congress in order to steer more gun sales to federally licensed dealers, who then make federal records of every transaction.”
The attorneys general siding with Abramski are from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.