Writing the majority opinion in the 5-4 decision in Abramski v. United States, Justice Elena Kagan said gun purchasers may not act as "straw purchasers," making it a crime to buy guns on behalf of third parties while claiming to make the purchase for personal use.
"No piece of information is more important under federal law than the identity of a gun's purchaser -- the person who acquires a gun as a result of a transaction with a licensed dealer," Kagan said. Instead, she wrote, the real purchaser must be correctly identified on the form and be present to make the purchase.
In his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia argued that the finding runs counter to federal gun laws, making it "a federal crime for one lawful gun owner to buy a gun for another lawful gun owner."
"Whether or not that is a sensible result, the statutes Congress enacted to do not support it -- especially when, as is appropriate, we resolve ambiguity in those statues in favor of the accused."
The ruling upheld the conviction of former police officer Bruce Abramski, Jr., of Virginia, who was convicted of falsely claiming he was the buyer of a gun he was actually purchasing for his uncle, Angel Alvarez.
Alvarez sent a check for $400 to Abramski, who then went to a gun dealer and wrote "yes" on a required form claiming he was the actual purchaser. Abramski was sentenced to three years of probation.