A fun follow-up from the Free Beacon to that dopey CBS “expose” a few days ago about how easy it is for people who pass a background check to buy an AR-15. It’s not smart to wave around a high-capacity magazine on national television when you’re in a jurisdiction that bans high-capacity magazines. It’s even less smart to buy a gun on camera with the intention of transferring it to someone else. That’s a straw purchase, and straw purchases are serious business under federal law.
Granted, the odds of CBS being charged for this are about the same as the odds of Hillary Clinton being indicted for mishandling classified info (also the same as the odds were of David Gregory going to prison for waving around that magazine), but they deserve some bad PR, at least.
“Ms. Paula Reid came into the shop with cash, claiming she wished to purchase an AR-15 to, ‘undergo training,’” Ryan Lamke, SpecDive’s general manager, told the Washington Free Beacon. “She refused basic, free instruction of firearms safety under the pretense that she was using the firearm for training with a NRA certified instructor.”
“Due to the information provided in the CBS News report filed today, I suspect Ms. Reid committed a straw purchase and procurement of a firearm under false pretenses.”…
“The law is very clear. When you knowingly attempt to purchase a firearm with the intent of giving it to another person, you are trying to bypass the legal pathway to firearms ownership,” [SpecDive owner Jerry Rapp] said. “This, in itself, is a very serious crime. I do not see how any member of the press can get away with potentially committing a felony just to boost their ratings and mislead the general public.”
CBS claimed that the AR-15 was “legally transferred to a federally licensed firearms dealer and weapons instructor in Virginia, just hours after we bought it.” Rapp and Lamke surely know the law better than I do, but I’ll put the question to legal eagles out there: Is this really a straw purchase? A textbook straw purchase is when someone who’s barred by law from buying a gun enlists someone who isn’t to purchase a weapon on his behalf. The felon is the actual purchaser and the guy who makes the buy for him is faciliating the illegal purchase. It’s an end-around the state’s attempt to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. The statute applies (I think) even if the actual purchaser isn’t himself legally barred from buying a firearm; if you buy a gun for someone who’s entitled to buy the gun himself, you’re still guilty on the theory, I guess, that we want the strongest deterrent possible against straw purchases. You can’t buy for someone else, period. Doesn’t matter who he or she is.
What if, though, CBS’s producer bought the gun without having decided which gun dealer she would resell it to? How can it be a straw purchase if there’s no actual purchaser behind the scenes, just an amorphous desire by the producer to resell the gun immediately? That is to say, what’s the evidence that she bought the weapon at some third party’s behest? If you put her on the stand, she’ll inevitably claim that she bought the gun thinking she “probably” wouldn’t keep it, but then, an hour later, her interest in ridding herself of it solidified and she decided it to sell it to the dealer in Virginia. Same with her claim that she wanted to “undergo training.” She could insist that she and her team were considering a follow-up segment in which she learns how to shoot the AR-15, but then they reconsidered and decided to sell the weapon straightaway. At a minimum, I’d guess, you’d need to show that she went into the store and bought the weapon having already agreed with the dealer in Virginia that she’d resell it to him once she had it. Absent proof of that intent to transfer the gun at the time of purchase, what’s the evidence that this was a “straw purchase” rather than simple buyer’s remorse later? And by “later,” I mean 20 minutes later.