Biden urges Supreme Court to protect federal firearms background checksStriking down prosecution would weaken efforts to keep guns away from criminals
Attorney General Beau Biden and a coalition of nine other attorneys general have a filed a brief with the Supreme Court of the United States supporting a federal prosecution under a key component of the law that requires buyers of firearms to accurately disclose their identities when undergoing a background check.
The brief was filed in the case of Abramski v. United States, in which a Virginia man is challenging his conviction under a federal law after he purchased a weapon for a relative, but claimed the gun was for himself. Federal law requires that firearms purchaser provide accurate and truthful information when they fill out paperwork to undergo the background checks required under federal law. Abramski is challenging his conviction because the relative he bought the weapon for was allowed to have a weapon under federal law. Biden and his colleagues argue that striking down the conviction would “gut” federal and state laws aimed stopped what are known as "straw purchases" - an individual claiming to be the person buying a weapon and then giving it over to another individual who in reality is the true owner.
"The federal background check system has made us safer by stopping more than two million criminals and other dangerous individuals from buying guns," Biden said. "In Delaware, we enhanced our background check law last year by requiring checks for most private firearms transactions. A key component of the federal background check law is the requirement that the potential buyers properly identify themselves. Removing that requirement will weaken the background check system and make it easier for criminals to buy weapons."
Biden and his fellow attorneys general argue that weakening laws against straw purchases will make it easier for criminals and other persons prohibited from possessing weapons under federal and state laws to get around background check requirements and obtain guns.
"Even now, straw purchases are frequently used to circumvent the federal requirements," the attorneys general wrote in their brief. "Some straw purchasers conceal an actual buyer who is ineligible to possess a gun, of course, but others conceal actual buyers who wish to withhold their identities for other reasons - to obscure a high volume of gun purchases, for example, or to avoid being traced to the gun after it is used in a planned crime. If federal law prohibiting false statements in purchases from federally licensed dealers is rolled back to permit a straw purchases to conceal the true nature of the sale, would-be criminals will be able to acquire and transport untraceable firearms across state lines with relative ease, defeating (states') efforts to reduce gun violence."
Biden was joined by the Attorneys General of Hawaii, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Oregon, and the District of Columbia.
In Delaware last year, legislation supported by Biden sought to further clamp down on straw purchases by requiring the timely reporting to law enforcement of lost and stolen firearms. The law targets individuals who lawfully purchase a weapon but then give it to a criminal or other prohibited person, and then claim the weapon was lost or stolen when questioned by police.