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Abramski v. United States

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: June 16, 2014
Case #: 12-1493
Kagan, J delivered the opinion of the court, joined by Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor, JJ. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion joined by Roberts, C.J., Thomas, and Alito, JJ.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/12-1493_k5g1.pdf

Criminal Law: Misrepresentations on Question 11.a on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form 4473 for gun ownership are material to violating ยง922(a)(6), lawful sale of a gun.

Petitioner purchased a firearm for his uncle, believing that he would get a law enforcement discount if he made the purchase on his uncle’s behalf. When Petitioner completed form 4473 - a statutory requirement by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to identify persons disqualified from gun ownership - Petitioner’s response to Question 11.a was that he was the actual buyer when it was in fact his uncle, thereby effecting a “straw purchase.”

A grand jury indicted Petitioner for violating 18 U.S.C. §922(a)(6). Petitioner moved to dismiss the charges, arguing that misrepresentations on Question 11.a were "not material to the lawfulness of the sale under §922(a)(6)." The district court denied the motion, and Petitioner entered a conditional guilty plea. Petitioner appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the convictions. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to address a circuit split as to the materiality of Question 11.a to violations of §922(a)(6).

The Supreme Court reasoned that the principle purpose of §922(a)(6) is to curb straw purchases, and the effect of Petitioner’s argument would render the statute ineffectual. The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals, and held that misrepresentations on Question 11.a on ATF form 4473 are material to violations of §922(a)(6).