Gun reform is at the front and centre of political debate in the United States, following the deadly attack on Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas last month.
In the 23 years since the massacre at Columbine High School, there have been 14 mass school shootings across the US, taking the lives of 169 victims.
The attack in Uvalde followed by the latest March For Our Lives, which took place across the country on 11 June 2022, seems to have pushed legislators into action. Now, a bipartisan group of senators have unveiled plans for an agreement on gun control laws. The jargonistic terminology of the agreement might have you wondering what some of these new safety measures mean. Here is what ‘straw purchasing a gun’ is and how it will be affected by the new Senate deal.
What is straw purchasing a gun?
If you ‘straw purchase’ a gun, you ask someone else to purchase a gun for you in their name. Straw purchasing occurs when someone is unable to purchase a gun because of some obstacle: for example, their age or that they would not pass the NICS background check, and would be denied the firearm. They also might want to avoid having their name on the firearm’s paperwork in order to maintain anonymity.
You can also straw purchase anything that would be illegal for someone to purchase themselves, e.g. alcohol and tobacco for a minor.
During the purchase of a firearm, the federal Form 4473 and identification procedure make it clear that only the actual buyer is eligible to make the purchase. The form reads: “If you are not the actual buyer, the dealer cannot transfer the firearm to you.”
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What changes with the new deal?
Although the latest talks about gun reform have brought attention to straw purchases of firearms, the act is already a federal crime across all 50 states.
Straw purchasing a gun could land you 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the Department of Justice.
But considering that straw purchases are one of the major talking points of the proposed gun deal, you might be curious as to what changes in the law are put forth regarding this crime.
New penalties are being proposed to crack down on those who purchase guns to illegally distribute them. While there are penalties in place for those who straw purchase guns, there aren’t as strict laws on those who distribute them or sell firearms to those who can’t obtain them themselves. This new measure is to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them.
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What the bipartisan deal means for gun reform overall
There are a number of propositions for the bipartisan senate deal over gun safety laws. Besides the harsher penalties on straw purchasing guns, the deal talks about implementing ‘Red flag’ laws, investing in mental health and telehealth, an enhanced background check for those under 21 years old, closing the ‘boyfriend loophole’, investment in school security, and data sharing between states and state police departments.
Closing the ‘boyfriend loophole’ in the latest agreement is a significant step. It was dropped from Senate negotiations over the Violence Against Women Act earlier this year because of objections from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Currently, federal law only blocks domestic abusers from having guns, “but only if they have been married to, have lived with, or have a child with the victim,” Everytown for Gun Safety reports. Abusive dating partners are currently able to purchase firearms.
The proposed gun safety legislation has the support of 10 Republican Senators as of Sunday, 12 June 2022, which is enough to overcome the Senate filibuster.