DOJ: News Release

Montana Joins 26 States and Territories in Supreme Court Brief Supporting Citizens’ Rights to Buy, Sell Firearms

Montana Joins 26 States and Territories in Supreme Court Brief Supporting Citizens’ Rights to Buy, Sell Firearms

Attorney General Tim Fox today announced that Montana has joined with 26 other states and territories in an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court opposing the attempt by the federal government to broadly construe federal law to prosecute legal gun owners who wish to sell a weapon to another person who can legally own firearms.

“Many states – including Montana – allow private gun sales between individuals and this brief seeks to support the states’ right to create and enforce laws surrounding those sales,” Attorney General Fox said. “Every legal gun owner should be interested in the outcome of this case.”

The brief was signed by attorneys general representing Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The brief relates to the case, Abramski v. United States of America, which challenges whether federal law prohibits citizens who legally buy a firearm from a licensed dealer with the intention of then selling that gun to another private citizen who also is legally allowed to purchase and own firearms. The Department of Justice argues that the citizen who buys and then sells the gun is acting as a “straw purchaser,” which they claim is illegal under several federal statutes.

The states, however, argue that Congress has never passed a federal law that prohibits such purchases. At most, the laws relied on by the federal government prohibit private citizens from selling guns to people who are prohibited from owning firearms, such as minors, convicted felons, or people who have been diagnosed as having mental illnesses. It is up to the states and their citizens to decide whether to implement additional regulations on private gun sales.

The states’ amicus brief is in support of a former Roanoke, Va., police officer, Bruce Abramski, who purchased a gun in 2009 using a law enforcement discount and sold it to his elderly uncle, who lived in Pennsylvania.  Both Abramski and his uncle could legally own firearms and made the transaction in accordance with Pennsylvania gun laws. However, federal authorities prosecuted Abramski on the grounds that he made false statements on the gun purchase form.

In January 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld Abramski’s conviction, saying that such “straw purchases” are illegal under federal law. In October, the Supreme Court agreed to review the conviction.

Oral arguments are scheduled for Jan. 22, 2014, with a decision to come by the end of the court’s session in June.

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