Court rules on straw purchase for firearms

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court says federal law does not allow a “straw” purchaser to buy a gun for someone else, even if both are legally eligible to own firearms.

The justices ruled Monday that the federal background check law applied to Bruce James Abramski Jr. when he bought a Glock 19 handgun in Collinsville, Virginia, in 2009 and later transferred it to his uncle in Easton, Pennsylvania.

Federal officials brought charges against Abramski because he assured the Virginia dealer he was the actual buyer of the weapon, even though he had already agreed to buy the gun for his uncle.

The high court rejected Abramski’s argument that since both he and his uncle were legally allowed to own guns, the law shouldn’t have applied to him.

The Abramski case before the U.S. Supreme Court is similar to a situation in Blair County in which Brenda Shultz of Frankstown Township was charged under state law with making a straw purchase of a gun for her boyfriend, Jeffrey Lee Michael.

In December 2012, Michael used that gun when he went on a killing spree, shooting to death Kenneth Lynn, 60, and Lynn’s son-in-law, William H. “Bill” Rhodes Jr., 38, both of whom were Michael’s neighbors, and Kimberly Scott, 58. Michael was eventually killed in a shootout with state police.

As part of the investigation into the Michael killings, state police arrested Shultz, who was charged with buying the .45-caliber Taurus handgun for Michael at a Hollidaysburg gun store because she thought he was not eligible to purchase a gun because of a past protection-from-abuse case.

As it turned out, there was nothing barring his purchase of the weapon, which, according to Shultz’s Blair County attorney, Lucas Kelleher, meant she was in the same situation as Abramski – buying a gun for someone who was eligible to own one.

Kelleher challenged the state charges filed against Shultz by filing a pretrial appeal with the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

He mentioned the Abramski case in his appeal.

Kelleher said Monday afternoon the Superior Court denied his request for a review of the Shultz charges.

He said he has not yet read the Abramski opinion.

Shultz’s next appearance in the Blair County court will be on July 14.