Gun Charges in Virginia: What is a Straw Purchase?
There are strict rules and regulations that govern the sale and purchase of firearms. When you buy a gun, it is imperative that you comply with all applicable state and federal laws. Notably, some of the most important laws are federal disclosure requirements. When buying a firearm for a licensed dealer, you must disclose the final intended recipient.
A person who obtains a gun on behalf of someone else without making mandated disclosures may be committing a serious criminal offense. In fact, they could be charged with making an illegal straw purchase. Here, our Fairfax criminal defense lawyers explain what you need to know about straw firearms purchases in Virginia.
Straw Purchases: Defined
Also known as a ‘nominee purchase’, a straw purchase is a purchase where the buyer intentionally obtains goods or services on behalf of a third party. As described by The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), there are strict criminal penalties for knowingly participating in an unlawful firearms transaction.
If you buy a firearm from a licensed dealer on behalf of another person who cannot legally own that firearm, you are committing a crime. If you buy a firearm from a licensed dealer and conceal the intended recipient’s identity, you are committing a crime.
What to Know About the Federal Firearms Transaction Form
One of the most important things to know about buying a gun from a dealer is that you will be required to complete and submit Federal Form 4473. It is the official federal firearms transactions form and it must be completed accurately. To protect yourself from any possible criminal accusations, it is best to disclose as much information as possible when filling out Form 4473. Here are three scenarios that you qualify as an illegal straw purchase in northern Virginia:
- You buy a gun for another person with the intent to help them avoid a background check;
- You buy a gun for another person in order to keep their name out of official government records; and
- You buy a gun as a gift for another person, even though you know or should know that they are lawfully prohibited from possessing a firearm.
To be clear, it is not illegal to purchase a gun for another person as a gift. That being said, you need to make sure that the recipient is lawfully capable of possessing a firearm and you should generally disclose as much information as possible at the time of purchase. A background check may be required.
State and federal prosecutors take straw purchases very seriously. It is important to emphasize that not all people charged with straw purchase crimes are engaged in nefarious trafficking. As an example, in the 2014 case of Abramski v. United States., the Supreme Court upheld a criminal conviction against a former Virginia police officer who used his law enforcement discount to buy a gun for his uncle. In doing so, he falsely indicated that he was buying it for himself. Even though his uncle was legally capable of purchasing and possessing a gun, the former police officer was still charged.
Call Our Virginia Gun Charge Defense Lawyers for Immediate Help
At Whitestone Young, PC, our Virginia criminal defense attorneys have the skills and experience to handle the complete range of gun charge cases. If you or your loved one was arrested for making a straw purchase, we are available to help. To set up a confidential consultation with a top defense lawyer, please contact our law firm today. With an office in Fairfax, we serve communities throughout Northern Virginia, including in Alexandria, Falls Church, Arlington, and Centreville.