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The Truth Behind the 'Straw Man' Gun Purchase Hype
Since July of 2000, our industry has partnered with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in a national public awareness and firearms dealer education program to help law enforcement in preventing illegal straw purchases. ATF Director Carl Truscott called the program, Don't Lie for the Other Guy, "vital" and "an important tool for ATF as we pursue our mission of preventing terrorism, reducing violent crime, and protecting the public through Project Safe Neighborhoods and other initiatives." Our industry is proud to continue its longstanding cooperative relationship with law enforcement.
Straw Purchase Questions
What is a "straw purchase?"
A straw purchase is when a buyer uses an intermediary (the "straw man") to purchase a firearm(s) from a licensed firearms dealer. The purpose is to hide the true identity of the actual purchaser of the firearm(s). Straw purchases are a felony violation of the Gun Control Act of 1968 for both the straw purchaser (who can be charged with lying on Federal Form 4473) and the actual possessor. Frequently, the actual purchaser is a prohibited person under federal law.
If a straw purchase has occurred, does that indicate illegality on the part of the dealer?
No. While firearms dealers are trained by ATF to detect suspicious behavior that may indicate a possible straw purchase, it is often difficult for the dealer to know if the person standing before him at the retail counter is a legitimate purchaser or acting as a straw purchaser (willing to lie on the Form 4473 in order to obtain the firearm). It is possible for a straw purchaser to lie on the Form 4473, pass the mandatory background NICS check and obtain the firearm without any knowledge or complicity on the part of the licensed dealer. While the purchase may have been a criminal act, it does not mean the sale by the dealer was also illegal or that the dealer is corrupt.
Complicating matters, it is perfectly legal for one person to purchase a firearm as a gift for another person. For example, a grandfather for his grandson or a husband for his wife.
Is the firearms industry doing anything to assist law enforcement in combatting the criminal acquistion of firearms through straw purchasing?
Yes. NSSF, in partnership with with ATF, developed the Don't Lie for the Other Guy dealer education and public awareness campaign to help firearms dealers to be better able to detect and deter potential illegal straw purchases and to raise public awareness that it is a serious crime to purchase a firearm for someone who cannot legally do so. The campaign drives home the message that anyone attempting an illegal firearm purchase faces a stiff federal penalty, including 10 years in jail. This national program has been in existence since July of 2000. About 30,000 retailer educational kits, including a training video, have been distributed nationwide.
Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg refused to permit NSSF the opportunity to address a gathering of mayors this past spring at Gracie Mansion about the Don't Lie for the Other Guy program.
Partnership for Progress is a program that is run in conjunction with ATF and FBI-NICS, offering free seminars to help firearms dealers covering everything from identifying and avoiding straw purchases, to passing an ATF inspection, inventory loss prevention, to recordkeeping requirements. The seminars give attendees the opportunity to learn from local and national ATF officials and inspectors, as well as private industry experts. The National Association of Firearms Retailers (a division of NSSF), ATF and the FBI have teamed-up to present approximately 50 of these seminars across the nation to date, with several more seminars scheduled for this year.
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