Law School Case Brief
United States v. Abramski - 706 F.3d 307 (4th Cir. 2013)
The plain statutory language of 18 U.S.C.S. § 924(a)(1)(A) is unambiguous, and it does not require a showing of materiality. The text of § 924(a)(1)(A) unambiguously describes which false statements and representations it prohibits—simply those that are made with respect to information that is required to be kept by federally licensed firearms dealers. While a violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 922(a)(6) expressly requires a showing of materiality no such expression is found in § 924(a).
On Nov. 17, 2009, in purchasing a Glock 19 handgun for his uncle in Pennsylvania, defendant Bruce James Abramski, Jr., assured the firearms dealer in Virginia that he was the "actual buyer" of the handgun. Abramski was later charged with being an illegal "straw purchaser" of the firearm. At trial in federal district court, Abramski filed a motion to dismiss the charges and a motion suppress evidence, which were denied. Pursuant to conditional pleas of guilty, Abramski was convicted for two firearm offenses: (1) making a false statement that was material to the lawfulness of a firearm sale, and; (2) making a false statement with respect to information required to be kept in the records of a licensed firearms dealer, specifically, that he was the actual buyer of the firearm, when in fact he was buying it for someone else. On appeal, he argued that the court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the indictment because he and his uncle were legally entitled to purchase and own the Glock 19 handgun. Second, he contended that the court erred in denying his motion to suppress on the ground that inculpatory evidence had been unconstitutionally seized from his residence.
Was it proper for the court to deny Abramski's motions to dismiss and to suppres?
The appellate court held that the identity of the actual purchaser of a firearm was a constant that was always material to the lawfulness of a firearm acquisition under 18 U.S.C.S. § 922(a)(6). Because the identity of the actual purchaser of the handgun was material to the lawfulness of its acquisition by Abramski, he made a false and fictitious statement to the licensed dealer when he answered "Yes" to question on a form assuring the dealer that he was the actual buyer. The identity of the actual purchaser of the handgun was a fact required to be maintained by the Virginia firearms dealer that sold the firearm. By virtue of the bold-print warning on the question on the form, Abramski was on notice that he was not the actual buyer of the handgun if he was purchasing it for someone else. Accordingly, the district court properly denied Abramski's motion to dismiss both charges of the indictment. The search warrant for Abramski's former residence was supported by probable cause. The court rejected Abramski's challenge to the scope of the search warrant.
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