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Straw Purchase by Bad Apples – What’s A Gun Dealer To Do?

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Article first appeared at Ammoland.com

Ammoland – There are a lot of articles in the anti-gun press about “bad” gun dealers that allow straw sales. As as if honest firearms retailers are some kind of “bad apples”

A ‘straw purchase’ is a sale made to a stand-in buyer who intends to then give the gun to the real buyer who is prohibited by law from buying the firearm himself.

As a 30 year plus retail firearms dealer I have no doubt that this happens on occasion. The real question is how do we tell a clever straw buyer from real customers? Some details of the incident below are changed in order to protect our security measures but the relevant facts are true.

A few weeks back a couple came in to purchase a firearm. The male half asked to look at a few small carry type handguns and then asked the female half to check out one in particular. He then expressed that that’s the one she should get. She presented her Driver’s License and began to fill out the 4473.

As the clerk wrote out the sales receipt, the male produced the money to pay for the gun. Unknown to the customers, the clerk pressed a button to alert me that a possible straw sale was taking place. The clerk explained to the couple the “Actual Buyer” rule that the woman had just checked on the form.

The male jumps in and explains he is buying his wife a firearm and she is the actual owner.

As I watched the discussion on my monitor, I immediately recognized the customer as a 20 year friend of mine, John Hambrick, now retired from the United States Secret Service. Of course I went out to the sales counter and approved the sale. The couple have dinner with my wife and I once a month or so. I’m quite confident he is not a prohibited person but is really just paying for the pistol for his wife who is the actual person getting the firearm. She is retired and he has the paying job, currently the Speaker of The Nevada Assembly, third in line to be the Governor.

Had they had gone to another shop, how is a dealer who doesn’t know them supposed to react?

Instructions from BATF describe this exact thing, one person tells the other what gun to buy and then provides the money for it. The dealer then runs the Brady check on the person doing the 4473 not the person choosing and paying for the firearm. That is a classic straw sale!

Many FFL dealers would have stopped this sale as meeting the criteria provided by BATF to detect a straw sale. If they don’t the penalties can be severe. I suspect that most actual straw buyers show the gun to their buyer on their cell phone and give the fake buyer the cash outside of the dealers view.

As dealers we only stop sales to the really blatant straw purchasers and probably stop purchases by innocent citizens just as often.

Bob Irwin, The Gun Store, Las Vegas

About Bob Irwin

The writer is the owner of The Gun Store in Las Vegas and has a gun talk radio show “Fired Up with Bob Irwin” Firedup is now on KSHP 1400 am radio from 5 to 6 pm on Tuesdays and at the same time also on YouTube “Fired Up with Bob Irwin“.

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