The Concept of the Straw
Last Thursday, we had a visit from the California Dept. of Justice Firearms Bureau, field representative.
This is in some circles referred to as an “audit”.
It was non-adversarial to say the least. She looked at a smattering of our files, made some recommendations on how we can improve, and showed us where we were flat out “not in compliance” with new laws… rest assure, that has been rectified. In fact, now when you come in to Artemis, you can see a copy of our FFL, our Certificate of Eligibility, and a copy of my FSC examiners card. If you are also the type of person who stays up at night concerned about safety warning signs not being present at the time of a firearm pick up… well, be assured… they have been ordered and will arrive sometime this week.
Of course, we had a conversation about the Assault Weapons registration process…. and she had no information. Which I pointed out was kind of funny… she was at our place to make sure that we were legally compliant with California Regulations… at the same time that her agency was breaking the law that California Legislature passed.
We then got into the question of the Straw Purchase.
Tongue and cheek ribbing about over regulation aside… this one is important and frankly I agree with her on it.
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Both State and Federal Law prohibit the sale of a firearm to what is referred to as a “Straw Purchaser”. This is someone who acts essentially as the agent of another individual that cannot legally purchase a firearm.
Now, at the Federal level this makes perfect sense. There are certain people that are prohibited from buying firearms as a condition of their mental health or their status as a felon. They have lost their rights for a variety of things from their Fourth Amendment protections to their Second Amendment right to bear arms.
The thing is, that for them to reach this status… (for rights to have been taken away) they had to be subjected to judicial proceedings first.
If they are able to coerce or persuade an individual (that still has the right to purchase a firearm) to do so on their behalf, then a crime has been committed. I think we can all understand that.
California has a different problem.
Without any judicial proceeding taking place, each citizen of the State of California has had a portion of their rights taken away by the Legislature. Under the guise of health, safety and welfare, the State of California has determined that a variety of handguns that are perfectly legal everywhere else in the Union, are not legal here because they are “dangerous”… well actually, they are deemed “unsafe” since they have not been blessed by the State.
This would be perfectly acceptable…. under normal circumstances except for one fundamental ILLOGICAL flaw:
There are still classes of people that can own them legally in the State.
Chief among them: Law Enforcement Officers.
As a Law Enforcement officer they retain the right to buy whatever they want. Literally, the State of California allows police officers to buy for their personal inventories, weapons that the State by definition considers to be “unsafe”.
What is more problematic is that the same officer that buys an “off roster” gun is then legally allowed to sell that gun to any non-prohibited person that resides in the Sate of California.
So… if a cop buys a Gen 4 Glock (a weapon that is sold throughout the entire country) and then decides he does not want it anymore, he can sell it to his neighbor who could not legally purchase it new from the gun store.
Here is the thing… everyone wants a Gen 4 Glock. Why? Well… perhaps it might be the sheer fact that it is newer, it might also be the fact that it has better design features then the Gen 3 which is available.
So, a gun that normally would cost about $500 in Arizona, can command a “used” price of upwards of $1000 in California, because the supply is so limited. Primarily limited to… you guessed it… law enforcement officers that are willing to sell theirs.
The ATF recently sent a letter to California Police Chiefs warning them that some of their officers are getting dangerously close to running side businesses of selling “off roster” guns. This is problematic as far as the ATF is concerned because the only way to legally trade firearms without an FFL is to not generally be in the business of doing so. A cop that has bought and sold 100+ off roster guns in the course of a year (yeah… that is a real example)… kinda sounds like an unlicensed firearms dealer.
The market can work in reverse too.
Bob decides he wants to get a Gen 4 Glock. Problem is Bob is not a cop. So Bob orders a Gen 4 Glock for his buddy Frank who is a cop. Frank does the paper work to get the gun then turns around and “sells” it to Bob.
Yeah.. that is a Straw Purchase. For the simple reason that when Frank fills out the ATF paperwork, he purposefully states that he is the “actual buyer” of the firearm. In the hypothetical, I just posited, Frank really is not the “actual buyer”, Bob is. Frank is “the legal middleman”… and quite possibly a “Straw Purchaser”.
Here is the question. The law prohibits someone from buying a firearm on behalf of someone they know is a “prohibited person”. But Bob is not really a “prohibited person” is he? It is perfectly legal for Bob to purchase a firearm, the State of California simply does not want him to purchase THAT particular firearm… at least not “new”.
There is a very very simple way to solve this problem.
It is elegant, removes the temptation for Law Enforcement Officers to engage in what could be seen as a dubious side business that runs afoul of Federal Law. It also allows individuals in the State of California to simply and easily buy new weapons that are available to law abiding citizens throughout the country.
It will save thousands of hours a year in the processing of DROS applications and will allow DOJ Field Representatives quicker compliance checks. (This will become even more important in the near future when ammunition sales become just as regulated as gun sales.)
Simply end the legislative tyranny of that silly roster!