Having gone through a BATFE course on what to look for when confronted with a potential straw purchase this one smelled. A straw is when one individual who is able to pass a FBI/NICS background check purchases a firearm for another individual who cannot pass the check. Most likely due to a felony, guilty to misdemeanor of domestic violence or drug trafficking among other run-ins with the law. A straw purchase could also be a citizen purchasing a firearm for an illegal alien, a juvenile or an out of state resident.
Buying a firearm for another individual is legal and acceptable if it is to be given as a gift. A father or mother buying one for an underage offspring would be an example or a wife buying one for her mate is another, as long as the giver is able to pass a check. In the case of a gift the responsibility of the actual gift transfer is on the gift giver.
As you can see determining a potential straw purchase is based on verbal and visual evidence and the seller's judgement. Is one individual looking at and touching the firearm while the other silently watches but then decides to make the purchase and fill out the NICS paper? Did anyone witness money changing hands between customers during the course of the store visit? We only are able to do our best to deny purchase when we feel, in our judgement, one is occurring. A straw purchase is a crime punishable by 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine or both.
I explained to customer#1 we would go to the register, cancel his purchase to wipe it off the system, then customer#2 would need to fill out the 4473 form and go through the background check process before making the purchase. At this point there wasn't enough visual or verbal evidence for me to judge beyond a doubt this as a straw purchase. In front at the checkout was the store manager and I explained to him what was happening. He seemed OK with it but I didn't. When the two customers proceeded to the rear of the store for the check I discreetly told the manager this transaction smelled. He nodded in agreement.
Back at the gun counter I asked customer#2 for his valid government issued photo ID so I could make a copy. I gave him a pen and the form then went onto the vault to make the copy. The manager stepped in to the vault and I gave him the low down. He went back out to observe the customers, to see if any money was changing hands or to look for other clues. While at the firearms desk customer#1 seemed calm but was pacing and looking at merchandise. When the form was completed I took a look and reviewed it. Customer#2 left some line items blank. As I was explaining to him what needed to be filled in the manager stepped in and asked to see the form. Then came the manager's question. "I see you were found guilty of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, is that correct?", asked the manager.
I had not yet looked at the question column but he spotted the answer box right away. Customer #2 casually said he had, but it was a misdemeanor, so what?. It didn't matter. This is the law and we had to deny the sale of a firearm and terminate the transaction immediately. Even if I didn't spot this, which I would have, I explained to customer#2 that if I had called in his check, the NICS people would have denied the sale even if he lied and checked the no box. Passing a background check is serious and conducting them just as serious.
(If we ever are audited by the BATFE and they find mistakes on the forms in our store we will be subject to a penalty which could range from a fine, probation, a combination of both or losing the FFL for a period of time or forever.)
Both customers were not happy, mumbled a few curses and stomped out of the store. I filed the form in the 'denied' folder and the layaway document from customer#1 in the 'straw purchase' folder. We are obligated by law to save all 4473 forms no matter what. As soon as ink touches the paper the document is owned by and forever property of the feds. They are organized in folders describing the nature of the transaction outcome.
I thought this was the last we would see of customer#1…but noooooooo.
On Saturday morning I was discussing with a new customer (for the millionth time) why 22LR ammunition continues to be impossible to find…at retail. We were at it for a few minutes when over his shoulder I see customer#1 approaching the firearm desk. Our conversation continued for a few minutes longer while customer#1 waited, paced and appeared to be in a hurry.
As our discussion concluded I looked toward #1 and asked what I could help him with. This time he had a woman with him. He shamelessly told me that the lady with him was interested in purchasing the same handgun he once had placed on layaway. I looked right at him and explained that after the encounter the previous evening there was no way I would sell her the firearm. He looked pissed and she asked that I call the manager. I did. The manager was told him once again there would be no sale based on what took place the previous night. Both of them began to curse and complain, then turned to exit the premises cursing and stomping all the way out the door.
Looking at my manager we both were astonished that this individual would try it again the very next day. We replayed the video surveillance in the office, identified both occurrences and he recorded the video time codes for future reference, just in case.
It's a good thing most criminals are just plain dumb.