CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey joined dozens of other attorneys generals in filing a "friend of the court" brief this week in a U.S. Supreme Court case in which a former police officer bought a gun for his uncle.
In the brief, filed Tuesday with the high court, Morrisey was joined by attorneys general for 25 other states and the territory of Guam.
Former police officer Bruce James Abramski is appealing a January ruling by the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. That ruling -- written by U.S. Circuit Judge Robert King of West Virginia -- upheld a lower court ruling that Abramski had lied on a federal firearms form when he bought a gun for his uncle.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in October. Justices are scheduled to hear oral arguments on the case on Jan. 22, 2014.
In November 2009, court records show, Abramski bought a handgun at a Virginia gun store for his uncle, Angel Alvarez, who lived in Pennsylvania. Abramski then had his uncle send him a check for $400 to cover the cost of the Glock, and had the gun transferred to his uncle through a federally licensed gun dealer in Pennsylvania.
But on the federal form buyers are required to fill out when buying a gun from dealer, Abramski answered "yes" to a question asking if he was the actual buyer of the handgun. The form says potential purchasers can't be the actual buyer if they are really buying the gun for someone else.
In June 2011, Abramski pleaded guilty in federal court to two different counts related to lying on the federal form. He was sentenced to five years of probation.
He later appealed to the 4th Circuit, arguing in part that the sale wasn't really a "straw purchase" -- because both he and his uncle were legally able to buy a gun.
The 4th Circuit agreed with the lower court.
"The ATF form, as completed and signed by Abramski, warned him -- in bold type -- that he was not the actual buyer of the Glock 19 if he was buying it for someone else," Judge King wrote in the January ruling. "And the undisputed facts show that Abramski's transfer of the Glock 19 to Alvarez was not an afterthought.
Alvarez appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in February. Morrisey and the other 26 attorneys general want to join in the case, arguing that the straw purchase provisions of the law only apply to people who buy a gun for someone prohibited from owning a weapon.
"This is a case about a lawful private transfer between two individuals legally permittted to possess firearms, each of whom could also have lawfully purchased the firearm in question from a federally licensed dealer," Morrissey wrote in the friends of the court brief.
"...[T]he United States's effort in this case to broadly criminalize all "straw purchases" of firearms -- not just those for prohibited individuals, but also those for individuals who could legally have bought the firearm themselves -- is an attempt to impose indirect federal regulation on such transfers."
Morrisey also argues the 4th Circuit ruling also interferes with gun sales between private citizens, which are currently not regulated by federal law.Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.