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Tue January 21, 2014
Winston-Salem Lawyers to Argue Gun Law Before U.S. Supreme Court
Three Winston-Salem lawyers are preparing to argue a gun law case before the U-S Supreme Court Wednesday. At issue is the 'straw purchaser' doctrine, a law intended to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them, such as felons, juveniles or mentally incompetent people.
The back story, in brief, is that in 2009, Bruce Abramski bought a Glock handgun for his uncle, because at the time he was a police officer and could get a discount. However, Abramski checked a box on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form indicating that he was not buying the gun on behalf of another person. That's what got him into trouble a year later when the transaction came to light. Abramski received five years of probation and a $200 fine.
Richard Dietz and his two colleagues at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton are arguing that the 'straw purchaser' doctrine should not apply to their client.
"We've argued that this straw purchaser doctrine is really intended for one purpose - to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them," says Dietz. "And in this case, because Abramski and his uncle were both law-abiding citizens, Congress didn't intend for someone like this to be prosecuted for a felony for buying a gun for a family member like an uncle." Dietz says the heart of the case is deciding whether the court-created doctrine of the straw purchaser should apply in a case like this.
Dietz says one implication is that law-abiding citizens who buy guns for others could be prosecuted for a felony offense, as Abramski was. He says a ruling in this case could clarify when one lawful gun owner can buy one for another, as well as if guns can be purchased for charity and political raffles.