An Honest To God Straw Purchase Prosecution

Those of us in the gun rights community know that straw purchases are often used by prohibited persons to get around background checks. A person with a clean record, often female, is used to fill out the Form 4473 and to make the purchase with money provided by the prohibited person. This person, the straw purchaser, has just broken federal law by lying on the Form 4473 when they said they were the actual purchaser in response to Question 21.a. That is a violation of 18 USC 922a6. Violating that statute carries a sentence of up to 10 years.

If you look at the prosecution statistics for lying on the Form 4473, you find that it is not often prosecuted. In FY 2013-FY 2017 or the second Obama term, there were a total of 533 prosecutions for this offense. They made up only 1.4% of all prosecutions for violating federal firearms laws. Being a felon in possession made up the overwhelming majority of prosecutions. It appears the Trump Administration made it more a priority as prosecutions increased to 2.6% in the first year of that administration. The database from Syracuse University did not specify how many people were actually convicted nor what sentences were given.

Bearing this in mind, it was interesting to receive a press release from the BATFE Chicago Field Division on just such an arrest and indictment. Usually these releases talk about either a reward for information on a gun store burglary or the conviction of violent criminal/gang member/drug dealer on a multitude of charges.

A woman has been indicted on federal firearm charges for allegedly straw purchasing handguns in a Chicago suburb on behalf of another individual.

On three occasions in 2019 and 2020, DIAMOND SMITH purchased a total of seven handguns, including two semi-automatic pistols, from a licensed firearms dealer in Oak Forest, Ill., and falsely certified on federal forms that she was the actual buyer, according to an indictment returned in U.S. District Court in Chicago.  In reality, Smith purchased the guns on behalf of another individual, the charges allege.

Smith, 28, of Chicago, is charged with three counts of making false statements in connection with the acquisition of a firearm….

“Straw purchasers too often play a grave role in enabling the unlawful possession of guns and the violence that can follow,” said U.S. Attorney Lausch. “Our office is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to stop the flow of guns to individuals who cannot legally purchase them.”

After reading the actual indictment, the firearms purchased by Smith were all semi-auto pistols. There were four Glocks, a Walther, a Taurus, and a Smith & Wesson. Notably, one was listed as a “Glock G42 .390 caliber pistol.” I can’t say I’m surprised that no one caught that little error.

6 thoughts on “An Honest To God Straw Purchase Prosecution”

    1. Very. I wonder if any of the seven pistols she purchased have been tied to violent crimes. If so, that very well could be the reason she was prosecuted.

  1. “In FY 2013-FY 2017 or the second Obama term, there were a total of 533 prosecutions for this offense.” “It appears the Trump Administration made it more a priority as prosecutions increased to 2.6% in the first year of that administration.”

    Hang on — I thought the Trump Administration was pro-gun?

    1. Prosecuting lying on Form 4473 doesn’t make you anti-gun. I don’t think prosecutions aimed at stopping straw purchases are a bad thing. In the states of Pennsylvania and Virginia, 80% of those being prosecuted for straw purchases under state law were turned in by alert dealers.

      1. “Prosecuting lying on Form 4473 doesn’t make you anti-gun.”

        I disagree. GCA ’68 was considered gun control to be resisted when it was introduced, and all of the tools of gun control that have grown out of it, like 4473s, should still be considered gun control to be discouraged. It remains a point of historical debate whether the NRA did enough to resist it at the time, or instead actually encouraged it.

        What you are suggesting is analogous to accepting warrantless searches, as long as real criminals are convicted as a result. We should not excuse gun control just because we’ve grown used to it.

        When you consider the demographics of mass incarceration, and the disbarment from firearms rights resulting from that incarceration, it might be suspected that enhanced enforcement of 4473 violations was actually in pursuit of something more valued by the Trump administration than your and my firearms rights.

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