Why would it be illegal to buy someone else a gun?

Buying a gun for someone else isn’t just a thoughtful gift — it could be illegal.

It all depends on why you’re making the purchase and the laws of your state. In Maryland, for example, the state requires a background check to transfer ownership of a gun even from one private party to another. The purpose of the law is to avoid putting firearms in the hands of people who are legally prohibited from owning them — which may not be what you’re trying to do if you just want to buy your Mom the pink revolver she said she wanted for Mother’s Day or you’re passing down a tradition by buying your son his first hunting rifle.

However, when you purchase a firearm, you’re required to fill out several different forms — one of which is Federal Form 4473, which specifically asks you to identify the firearm’s actual purchaser. If you are buying the gun at someone else’s request or direction, with or without their money, the actual purchaser isn’t you — it’s the other person.

That’s what is known as a “straw” or “strawman” purchase. It’s sometimes done because the actual buyer doesn’t want a record of the purchase in his or her name anywhere the government can track it, but the usual reason behind a straw purchase is that the actual buyer is legally prohibited from owning a gun in the first place. The real buyer knows that he or she can’t pass the necessary background check, so he or she convinces a friend or relative to make the purchase instead.

Before you agree to do anything like that for someone, remember that lying on a federal form about the true nature of a firearm purchase is a felony. If you know (or should have known) that the other person couldn’t legitimately buy a firearm, that’s an additional conspiracy charge. If the gun ends up being used in a violent crime, that can also result in additional charges.

If it’s already too late and you made a straw purchase for someone else before you realized what you were doing, an attorney can help you with a weapons charge today.

Source: WiseGeek, “What is a Straw Purchase?,” accessed May 03, 2017

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