CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia and 25 other states and a territory are joining together to fight an attempt by the federal government to prosecute the sale of guns between legal gun owners.
State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Wednesday the group has filed an amicus, or friend of the court, brief with the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the matter.
“Our Office is proud to lead a bipartisan group of 27 states and territories in this brief to oppose the U.S. Department of Justice’s attempt to unilaterally create a federal restriction on firearm sales between law-abiding citizens,” said Morrisey in a release.
In the case, Abramski v. United States of America, the federal government is challenging the legality of citizens legally buying a firearm from a licensed dealer with the intention of then selling that gun to another private citizen who also may legally own and purchase firearms.
The government claims that the citizen who buys and then sells the gun is acting as a “straw purchaser,” which they claim is illegal under several federal statutes.
The states, however, argue that there is currently no federal law that prohibits such a transaction between two legal gun owners.
“The State of West Virginia does not discourage private gun sales, but the Department of Justice wants to ensnare innocent West Virginian gun owners in a web of criminal laws if they try to sell their guns,” Morrisey said in the release.
At most, the federal laws currently in the books prohibit private citizens from selling guns to people who are prohibited from owning firearms, such as minors, convicted felons, or people who have been diagnosed as having mental illnesses.
Morrisey mentions that it is up to the states and their citizens to decide whether to implement additional regulations on private gun sales.
“This federal overreach is a blatant attempt to overstep state regulations and Congress in order to steer more gun sales to federally licensed dealers, who then make federal records of every transaction,” stated Morrisey.
The states’ amicus brief is in support of a former Roanoke, Va., police officer, Bruce Abramski, who purchased a gun in 2009 using a law enforcement discount and sold it to his elderly uncle, who lived in Pennsylvania. Abramski and his uncle were legally allowed to own firearms and the transaction was made
in accordance with Pennsylvania gun laws.
The federal government , however, prosecuted Abramski
on the grounds that he made false statements on the gun purchase form. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the conviction this past January.
“While no one wants guns to end up in the hands of a potential or real criminal, the administration’s interpretation oversteps the law and could make criminals out of innocent citizens,” Morrisey said.
Oral arguments are scheduled for Jan. 22, 2014, with a decision to come by the end of the court’s session in June.