Editorials in both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Philadelphia Inquirer praised a decision on federal gun law that the U.S. Supreme Court handed down last week. Both editorials take issue with the fact that the opinion was 5-4 because this should have been a no-brainer. As the Post-Gazette pointedly puts it: “While common sense and good public policy survived a close call, why is keeping guns out of the hands of criminals even open to dispute?”
Bruce Abramski, a former Virginia police officer, acted as a straw buyer for his uncle in Easton, Pennsylvania. When Abramski was charged with illegally purchasing a gun because he was not the actual buyer, he claimed that the ban on straw buyers did not apply to him because both he and his uncle could legally purchase and possess firearms. However, in its decision the Supreme Court rejected this argument because it would have created a loophole, which could easily be exploited by criminals and prohibited possessors of firearms.
Straw buyers supply guns to criminals and create a flow of illegal firearms onto the streets of many cities, including Philadelphia and Camden. Had the Court swung the other way it would have made it nearly impossible for law enforcement officers to distinguish between a legal and an illegal straw buyer. Additionally such a loophole would have circumvented the national background check system meaning guns would be more likely to fall into criminal hands.
The Inquirer editorial in particular argues that while not creating a new loophole in the federal law is a step in the right direction, it is not enough. Rather, the Inquirer says that action is needed on the state level as well. Specifically, the editorial calls for the mandatory reporting of lost and stolen guns in order to track illegally trafficked firearms and dissuade straw buyers. Philadelphia is among the many places in Pennsylvania that have enacted reporting laws, but although the state legislature has toughened up the criminal penalties for straw buyers, there is no similar state law.