Thursday, June 19, 2014

163.3 - Good News: SCOTUS takes stuffing out of straw gun purchases

Good News: SCOTUS takes stuffing out of straw gun purchases

Another bit of good news comes from a relatively unexpected source: the Supreme Court.

On June 16, the Court dealt a rare but sharp defeat to the gun nuts when it declared that two lower courts were correct when they ruled against so-called straw purchases, where one person buys a gun actually intended for another person.

The primary purpose, bluntly, for a straw purchase is to hide the identity of the true owner of the gun, something often done for criminal purposes. Since one of the purposes of gun buyers having to identify themselves and fill out a form is to have some chance of tracing the gun in the future. Allowing straw purchases, the majority reasoned, makes no sense and defeats the purpose of registration in the first place.

The case involved a former cop who bought a handgun for an uncle, during which he signed a federal form saying he was the "actual buyer" of the gun. He was convicted of making a false statement on the form. His attorney argued that because both men were legally able to own guns, there was no crime because - get this - Congress was "not concerned about the ultimate recipients of firearms or what happens to a gun after it leaves the gun store."

To which I can only respond, say what? What is he point of the form at all? What is the point of the registration at all, if it's only supposed to apply for the time it takes for the buyer to get to the door? Fortunately, a majority of the Supreme Court agreed. Elena Kagen, writing for the majority, argued that had the cop told the truth, that the gun was intended for someone else, the sale could not have gone forward because the uncle would not have gone through a background check.

The down part of this good news is that the case was decided by a mere 5-4 majority - which means four rightwing members of the Supreme Court want people to in effect be able to obtain guns secretly, they want people to be able to obtain guns from gun shops without having to go through a background check, even though studies show that background checks do help to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them and do save lives. But they, it seems, simply do not care, preferring to chant with the NRA, "all for guns and guns for all."

So it may not seem like a big win, but it is a win - and when dealing with the gun nuts, any win is a big one.

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