Legal Issues

To Prevent Another ‘Abramski,’ Get in the Fight

Unquestionably, the recent Abramski v. United States Supreme Court decision handed down June 16 is a setback. And if more gun owners don’t get more involved, with real commitment, things are only going to get worse.

Former police officer Bruce Abramski was charged with two federal firearms violations: making a false statement, a fact material to the lawfulness of the sale; and making a false statement regarding information required to be kept on file by an FFL. The Supreme Court upheld his convictions on those counts. [Other Shooter’s Log coverage of the case is here.] Had Abramski simply given his uncle the gun he got with a law-enforcement discount, he’d have never been challenged in the first place. The government would not have questioned his “Yes” answer to question 11.a. on ATF Form 4473, the Firearms Transaction Record, that he was “the actual transferee/buyer of the firearm(s) listed on this form.”

ATF Form4473 Line11
The exact meaning of language in Form 4473 question 11.a. was the dispute in the Abramski case.

“You are … the actual transferee/buyer if you are legitimately purchasing the firearm as a gift for a third party,” the form instructions advise, also giving examples where a sale could not proceed, such as buying a gun for someone else using their money.

That was a problem, because Abramski’s uncle had written him a $400 check three days earlier, entering “GLOCK 19 handgun” in the memo line. And Abramski had certified that his answers were “true, correct, and complete,” and that he understood “answering ‘yes’ … if I am not the actual buyer is a crime punishable as a felony under Federal law.” Abramski argued that he had not violated the law because his uncle was legally eligible to own a gun, and “actual buyer” information is not specifically required by law to be kept on file. The District Court disagreed and convicted him, a decision upheld by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, albeit it noted there was a split in rulings, with the Fifth Circuit contending third-party purchases are lawful if the ultimate receiver of a firearm is not prohibited by law from owning one.

That was the reason the Supreme Court gave for granting certiorari, “principally to resolve the Circuit split.” And SCOTUS came down against Abramski in a 5-4 decision that illustrates the closeness of gun cases — and the importance of ensuring the right political environment exists to block justices like Elena Kagan, who wrote the opinion for the majority.

“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,” Kagan wrote in the order affirming the Fourth Circuit. “And because that statement pertained to information that a dealer must keep in its permanent records under the firearms law, Abramski’s answer … also violated [the law].” In the dissent, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia argued, “[W]hether the item sold is a carton of milk, an iPhone, or anything else under the sun, an ordinary English speaker would say that an over-the-counter merchant ‘sells’ the item to the person who pays for and takes possession of it, not the individual to whom that person later transfers the item.” “Even if the statute were wrongly thought to be ambiguous on this point, the rule of lenity (the requirement that a court resolve any ambiguity in favor of the defendant) would defeat the Government’s construction,” he maintained.

Scalia offered other arguments as well, describing the way purchasers are regarded for guns intended as gifts, for resale and for raffle prizes, where “[t]he Government considers the man at the counter the true purchaser…” But in the end, the ultimate argument contained in the 2nd Amendment— “shall not be infringed” — was never made, because to do so would alter the balance of power, and people who have power never cede it unless they have no choice.

So Abramski has become law, meaning it has been transformed into stare decisis über alles, and it can become the basis for more bad rulings across the country. To stop that from happening, gun owners who are sitting on the sidelines must join the fight for gun rights, or the decision’s arcane language and legal parrying involving milk and iPhones will devolve further into how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Are you ready to get in the fight? Tell us what action you will take in the comment section.


The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (13)

  1. This is a lawyer’s argument. It hinges on subtlety and vague inference. the devil is in the details and the details would be in the Congressional Record.

    For instance if the legislature wrote the law authorizing the ATF to write the regs and the provisions of the form we need to know the “intent” of the legislature. If the regs exceeded the intent-the provision is to ensure that a ineligible individual is not getting the weapon-then the phrase is over broad. The Seventh Circuit just locked up an old guy who made the AR 15 auto sears. Their interpretation had been the gospel since 1981 when the items were made. The Court held that the ATF could not make regulations or decisions that exceed the law.

    There you go you take their own sword and give them a very close hair cut. Chances are that that is exactly the case. But I have not researched it to say 100%. This would overturn the stare decisis ruling as all such rulings may be subject to question when they are unreasonable-by unreasonable it means using the laws of formal logic to determine the truth of the premises. This is something attorneys don’t do out of habit because well it takes work and bucking the system they make the money at.

    So there you have it. I know this because I have studied law since I can remember. I am not a programmed individual, I know the law and have obtained from my studies something even congress cannot obtain, a letter of apology from IRS. Yep go it framed and many copies to friends. All you have to do is be tenacious, well being pissed is a good motivator as well. So remember all attorneys are members of the same club, even the judges. My dad owned a tavern near a court house. They used to come there for lunch. I can tell you stories and this is the very reason I don’t trust them. It was Jesus who cursed the attorneys for creating something that no one could live by out of the simple Law of Moses. They created 1500 pages of garbage that just confused people and twisted the basic law. He said that they would not abide by the very law they subjected the people to. Sound familiar????

    My hpw times have changed… NOT!

  2. David- Glad you’re part of the Shooter’s Log.

    Hasn’t it been an accepted practice by the ATF in the past to purchase a firearm for someone else as long as the person is not a prohibited person?

    In this case, the firearm transfer was verified through NICs twice. At the original purchase and subsequent transfer in another state by the father-in-law.

    Abramski had to take possession of the firearm in order to ship it to the FFL in another state.

    1. Actually no. If he was going to ship it to another state. All he had to do was pay for it, and have that FFL ship to a FFL in the other state. Then his Uncle or whom ever could have filled out the form and taken possession of the firearm. He just would have had to pay a transfer fee.

    2. And if it wasn’t being shipped out (don’t know the details of the story), then he could have just paid for it and the other person could have come in and filled out the form to pick it up.

    3. This was all done to save $50 off on a a GLOCK. It will be the most expensive $50 every spent by Abramski!

      He was using his LE credentials to buy a GLOCK at the LE price, which is typically lower than the consumer MAP. Since he was using his credentials, the FFL might have balked if he turned around and said now ship it out of state to another FFL. Not because he wasn’t the purchaser, but because he was then violating GLOCK’s rule on LE sales. LE GLOCKS are labeled differently. They are known as Blue Label Guns.

      I’m not sure if the dealer gets a price break on LE guns.

  3. I’m an avid gun enthusiast and proud to have the right to carry, shoot and defend. In my book, right is right and wrong is wrong. This case hardly seems like the poster child for government over-reach. Why do some in the gun community want us to stand and fight back when Abramski is clearly in the wrong. This is how we will lose credibility when a true issue surfaces that we do need to band together and fight back against an infringement.

    He was wrong for lying on the form, cut and dry. He tried to cut a corner and it came back to bite him. This is no where close to an us against them situation.

  4. That is right! Those bird brained assholes would have ruled in his favor if only he had brought his stupid uncle with him. His uncle could have done the damn 4473 even if he paid for it.

  5. Richard Underwood is correct. The former police officer lied on the form 4473. He knew he was lying and that he was committing a Federal crime.

    The problem stems from having to fill out the form to begin with. We have been saddled with this nonsense ever since the National firearms act of 1934 and maze of laws that act spawned.

  6. I have to agree with the scotus on this , he could have presented it as a present , and his father done likewise to repay , with no issues , but the issue is he was not the primary person for whom the gun was purchased and he lied on the form , wasn’t necessary just to get a discount . just shows poor judgment on his part . Being an ex-cop means he should have been aware of the law more than most ! not condemning ! Just saying he didn’t need to lie to get his Dad the firearm , just buy it and them sell it to him !


  7. I’m talking with all my coworkers and friends about how important this next election is for us gun owners. I am sending donations to candidates that are pro2A. I share all pro2A posts on FB. I know, I need to do more……

  8. In the other Shooter’s Log article linked to in the second paragraph here it is stated that Abramski was being investigated for other crimes. It would be interesting to know about that part of the story, not that any of that would justify the current Supreme Court opinion. Also, I’ve always thought a straw purchase is a purchase made on behalf of a person prohibited from making the purchase themselves. You know, like paid informants and others, of agents for the federal govnernment, making clearly illegal purchases of arms solely for the illegal transport and transfer to parties unknown in a neighboring country, like Mexico, for instance. Just sayin’.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.