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What Is a Straw Purchase of a Gun?

Under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, we have the right to bear arms. However, that right is not unlimited. Various laws and regulations exist restricting access to firearms for certain people – typically, individuals who have been convicted of crimes or considered to be a danger to society should they possess a gun or ammunition.

Although some people may be prohibited from purchasing or owning a gun, they may find ways around the restrictions. One such method used is straw purchasing of firearms. Straw purchasing involves a person with a clean record buying a gun for someone forbidden from having a firearm under state or federal laws.

The practice allows prohibited persons to circumvent the background check process and essentially gives weapons to people who might use them to commit crimes of violence. Thus, straw purchases put the safety of society at risk. As such, both state and federal laws prohibit straw purchases and impose heavy penalties upon anyone engaged in such conduct.

What Federal Laws Prohibit Straw Purchases?

The process to purchase a firearm requires the buyer to complete federal forms. In a straw purchase, the buyer provides their information on these documents. However, once they get the gun, they give or sell it to someone else without going through the proper channels to transfer ownership.

If a person buys a firearm for a prohibited person, they may be charged with making false statements on federal forms for gun purchases. The offense is punishable by up to 10 years of imprisonment and/or up to $250,000 in fines.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is aggressive in investigating alleged straw purchasers, as it seeks to prevent violent crimes and protect the safety of the people in this country.

What Minnesota Laws Prohibit Straw Purchases?

A couple of different laws make it illegal for someone to purchase a gun for a prohibited person.

Minnesota Statute § 624.7133 provides that it is unlawful to get a firearm for an ineligible person. The crime is a gross misdemeanor and can be penalized by up to 1 year of incarceration and/or up to $3,000 in fines.

Another law a person can be accused of violating is Minnesota Statute § 624.7141, which makes it illegal to knowingly transfer a pistol or semiautomatic military-style firearm to an ineligible person. If the person who received the weapon uses or possesses it to further a crime of violence within a year of the transfer, a violation of this law is a felony. Upon a conviction, the individual who transferred the firearm may be punished by up to 5 years of imprisonment and/or up to $10,000 in fines.

Who Is Prohibited from Having a Gun?

Both federal and state laws make it a crime to purchase firearms for "prohibited" or "ineligible" persons. But what circumstances result in a gun ban?

Under federal law – U.S.C. § 922(g), a person loses their firearm rights if they:

  • Have been convicted of a crime punishable by more than 1 year of imprisonment
  • Are a fugitive from justice
  • Are an unlawful user of or addicted to controlled substances
  • Have been judged mentally defective and committed to a mental institution
  • Are in the U.S. unlawfully
  • Have been dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces
  • Have renounced their U.S. citizenship
  • Are subject to a restraining order for harassment, stalking, or domestic abuse
  • Have been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic abuse offense

Some of the circumstances leading to firearm ineligibility in Minnesota are the same as those listed above.

However, under Minnesota Statutes § 624.713, the state also prohibits a person from purchasing or possessing a gun if they:

  • Are under 18 years of age
  • Have been convicted of a crime of violence
  • Have been determined to be developmentally ill or disabled and committed to a treatment facility
  • Have been convicted of a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor drug crime
  • Have been committed to a treatment facility for chemical dependency
  • Have been charged with a crime of violence and placed in a pretrial diversion program
  • Have been convicted of assault with a firearm against a family or household member
  • Have been convicted of any of the following at the gross misdemeanor level:
    • Crime committed for the benefit of a gang
    • Assault motivated by bias
    • False imprisonment
    • Neglect or child endangerment
    • Fourth-degree burglary
    • Setting a spring gun
    • Riot
    • Harassment or stalking
  • Have been convicted of fifth-degree assault against a family or household member
  • Are subject to an order of protection

As a good person, you may have been trying to help a friend or family member exercise their constitutional right to own a gun, not realizing your actions were criminal.

If you have been charged with a state or federal crime in Minneapolis, contact Brockton D. Hunter P.A. at (612) 979-1112 for the aggressive defense you need.

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