Both state and federal laws allow an individual to purchase and possess guns, or firearms. The possession of guns and the use of guns is heavily regulated at both the state level and the federal level.
Gun control laws vary significantly by location. Typically, gun laws are less restrictive in rural areas than in urban areas because more individuals use guns for recreational sports in rural areas, such as sports and hunting.
Because of the higher crime rates that are often present in urban areas, gun laws are usually more restrictive in these areas. Gun control laws regulate which individuals are permitted to buy and possess firearms.
Gun laws are the government’s attempt to limit or restrict the ownership, use, and production of guns by American citizens. Some individuals will try to circumvent these gun control laws by making straw purchases.
What Are Some Common Elements Related to Gun Laws?
Generally, gun control laws govern many aspects of the use and possession of firearms, including:
- Waiting periods: At the federal level, and in many states, an amount of time must pass between an individual purchasing a gun and when they are permitted to take possession of the gun;
- Waiting period laws seek to prevent heat of the moment crimes by imposing these types of cooling-off periods;
- Background checks: Background checks are mandatory on the federal level and in the majority of states before a gun transaction with a licensed gun dealer is completed;
- Gun permits and registration: A gun permit may be required to purchase and use a firearm;
- In some states, all guns must be registered;
- Bans on certain types of guns: Certain types of firearms are banned from use and possession altogether, including:
- Unregistered and illegal guns;
- Concealed weapons;
- Assault weapons, such as:
- machine guns;
- sawed-off shotguns;
- automatic firearms; and
- guns equipped with silencers;
- Possession of guns in a school zone: Federal law and nearly all states ban the use and possession of firearms at a school or near school zones; and
- Restricted classes: Classes of individuals may be prohibited from owning firearms, including:
- Convicted felons; and
- Illegal aliens.
What Is a Straw Purchase?
A straw purchase occurs when an actual gun buyer uses another individual to make their gun purchase transaction. The individual who is making the gun purchase for the actual buyer is referred to as the straw purchaser.
There are examples of straw purchases that are considered legal, such as an individual purchasing groceries for a senior citizen who cannot go shopping due to poor health and an individual who finances a car for someone else who cannot get a loan because of poor credit.
If, however, an individual engages in a straw purchase of a firearm, they may face criminal charges.
What Does a Straw Purchaser Do?
A straw purchaser completes all of the paperwork that is necessary to purchase the gun. The straw purchaser buys a firearm from a dealer that is licensed by the federal government.
Once the firearm purchase is completed, the straw purchaser then gives the firearm or firearms to the actual buyer.
Why Would an Actual Buyer Need Someone to Purchase a Gun?
Typically, an actual firearm buyer would need another individual to purchase the gun if they were prohibited by law from purchasing a gun. An individual cannot purchase or possess a firearm if they:
- Are a convicted felon;
- Have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence;
- Are under 18 years of age; or
- Are mentally ill.
Some jurisdictions may also include additional factors that prohibit an individual from buying firearms.
Who Is a Convicted Felon?
A convicted felon is an individual who has been convicted for a violent or non-violent criminal offense that is categorized as a felony and is punishable by more than one year in prison. Under the Brady Law as well as other state laws, felons cannot purchase or possess firearms.
Is Making a Straw Purchase Illegal?
Yes, making a straw purchase is illegal. This is because the intent behind the act is to provide firearms to individuals who are not supposed to have access to them.
Both federal and state laws prohibit straw purchases. An illegal straw purchase for a firearm is a federal crime that is classified as a felony.
What Is the Punishment for Making a Straw Purchase?
If an individual is convicted under federal law of a firearm straw purchase offense, they may face 10 years incarceration and criminal fines of up to $250,000. These punishments apply in states where no specific laws prohibit straw purchases.
The punishment an individual may face under state law will depend on the laws of the state where the purchase is made. There are certain states that have individual straw purchase laws, including:
- Ohio; and
It is also important to note that each state has its own gun laws. For example, gun laws in California and New York state each have varying requirements and restrictions.
There are many restrictions on the use and possession of firearms in California. An individual is not permitted to carry a weapon, gun, or concealed weapon in a public place unless they hold a valid Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) license.
A CCW license allows the individual to carry a concealed weapon in public. In California, the following individuals are prohibited from carrying firearms or weapons:
- Any individual who has been convicted of a misdemeanor listed in Penal Code Section 29805;
- Any individual convicted of a felony conviction under Penal Code Section 29805;
- An individual addicted to a narcotic drug;
- An individual held out to be dangerous to themselves or others;
- An individual who is restricted under other domestic or mental conditions, or conditions or probation or parole.
The State of New York also has restrictions that prohibit the use and possession of firearms. In New York, an individual may obtain a concealed weapons permit.
The background check for this permit may take up to six months. The applicant must be at least 21 years old.
Before a handgun sale can be completed, it must be ballistically fingerprinted.
What About Federal Gun Laws?
Federal gun laws require all individuals who are looking to purchase a gun to undergo a federal background check. Federally licensed firearms dealers are required to conduct background checks on potential buyers under the Brady Handgun Prevention Act.
This background search will examine the potential purchaser’s criminal history and mental health history that may prevent the sale from going through.
Individuals who are prohibited from purchasing, possessing, shipping, or transporting firearms include individuals who:
- Have been convicted in any court of a crime that is punishable by imprisonment for a term that exceeds one year;
- Is a fugitive from justice;
- Is an addicted to or is an unlawful user of any controlled substance;
- Has been adjudicated as mentally defective or has been committed to a mental institution;
- Is unlawfully in the U.S. or is an alien;
- Has been dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces;
- Was a citizen of the United States and renounced their citizenship;
- Is subject to a court order that restrains the individual from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partners; or
- Has been convicted in any court of misdemeanor domestic violence.
Do I Need a Lawyer if I Am Connected to a Straw Purchase?
Yes, if you are connected to a straw purchase, it is essential to consult with a criminal lawyer. Any individual who intentionally lies to obtain a firearm can face criminal charges.
The actual buyer can also face criminal charges. Your lawyer can advise you of your rights in these types of cases as well as any defenses that may be available in your case.