Straw Purchase by Bad Apples – What’s A Gun Dealer To Do?

Bad Apple Gun Dealers
Straw Purchase by Bad Apples – What’s A Gun Dealer To Do?
Bob Irwin
Bob Irwin

Las Vegas, NV –-( There are a lot of articles in the anti-gun press about “bad” gun dealers that allow straw sales. As as if honest firearms retailers are some kind of “bad apples”

A ‘straw purchase’ is a sale made to a stand-in buyer who intends to then give the gun to the real buyer who is prohibited by law from buying the firearm himself.

As a 30 year plus retail firearms dealer I have no doubt that this happens on occasion. The real question is how do we tell a clever straw buyer from real customers? Some details of the incident below are changed in order to protect our security measures but the relevant facts are true.

A few weeks back a couple came in to purchase a firearm. The male half asked to look at a few small carry type handguns and then asked the female half to check out one in particular. He then expressed that that’s the one she should get. She presented her Driver’s License and began to fill out the 4473.

As the clerk wrote out the sales receipt, the male produced the money to pay for the gun. Unknown to the customers, the clerk pressed a button to alert me that a possible straw sale was taking place. The clerk explained to the couple the “Actual Buyer” rule that the woman had just checked on the form.

The male jumps in and explains he is buying his wife a firearm and she is the actual owner.

As I watched the discussion on my monitor, I immediately recognized the customer as a 20 year friend of mine, John Hambrick, now retired from the United States Secret Service. Of course I went out to the sales counter and approved the sale. The couple have dinner with my wife and I once a month or so. I’m quite confident he is not a prohibited person but is really just paying for the pistol for his wife who is the actual person getting the firearm. She is retired and he has the paying job, currently the Speaker of The Nevada Assembly, third in line to be the Governor.

Had they had gone to another shop, how is a dealer who doesn’t know them supposed to react?

Instructions from BATF describe this exact thing, one person tells the other what gun to buy and then provides the money for it. The dealer then runs the Brady check on the person doing the 4473 not the person choosing and paying for the firearm. That is a classic straw sale!

Many FFL dealers would have stopped this sale as meeting the criteria provided by BATF to detect a straw sale. If they don’t the penalties can be severe. I suspect that most actual straw buyers show the gun to their buyer on their cell phone and give the fake buyer the cash outside of the dealers view.

As dealers we only stop sales to the really blatant straw purchasers and probably stop purchases by innocent citizens just as often.

Bob Irwin, The Gun Store, Las Vegas

About Bob Irwin

The writer is the owner of The Gun Store in Las Vegas and has a gun talk radio show “Fired Up with Bob Irwin” Firedup is now on KSHP 1400 am radio from 5 to 6 pm on Tuesdays and at the same time also on YouTube “Fired Up with Bob Irwin“.

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If the “Brady Bunch” are monitoring this forum, I just want them to know something personal from me. It was a happy day for me when Veg and Coon became worm food!

Wild Bill

Over the last 50 years, I have been intentionally buying guns for my son, to whom I will give those guns when I no longer need them, but still inter vivos. So, I knowingly and intentionally buy the guns for ownership by a third party. Please note that I am an extremely slow person. I think that Sean’s interpretation would lead to ridiculous conclusions.

Also it is interesting to find out that the Brady Campaign is monitoring our conversations! I will be sure to couch everything that I write in the hypothetical from now on.


I agree with TEX. Everything else is just liberals putting up a smokescreen.


“Instructions from BATF describe this exact thing, one person tells the other what gun to buy and then provides the money for it. The dealer then runs the Brady check on the person doing the 4473 not the person choosing and paying for the firearm. That is a classic straw sale!” Except if the person who filled out the form is the one who will actually be the person who has possession of the gun. This is why people hate the ATF – to them darn near ANYTHING can be labelled a straw purchase with the right spin. I paid… Read more »

Lawrence G. Keane

Sean The joint NSSF/ATF Don’t Lie for the Other Guy partnership campaign and its message was coauthored and approved by the ATF. So are you saying the ATF is “purposely” “misleading and inaccurate”. Please be specific, exactly what part of the Don’t Lie material is purposely misleading and inaccurate? I”m sure ATF would like to know. By the way, before you throw stones, you might want to know that your own organization has never criticized Don’t Lie, until today I guess. Former Mayor Bloomberg included participation in the program as a condition of settlement agreements reached with out of state… Read more »


It’s only a straw purchase if the person who ultimately ends up with the firearm is a prohibited person ! If you can legally own a firearm it makes no difference how its acquired. (Legally of course) !

Sean Kirkendall (Senior Policy & Public Safety Manager, Brady Campaign & Center to Prevent Gun Violence)

Actually Bob, your definition of what a “straw purchase” is wrong, and I suspect is purposely as inaccurate and misleading as the NSSF’s National Campaign to Prevent the Illegal “Straw Purchase” of Firearms; Don’t Lie for the Other Guy. Just tell the truth. I’m sure some of your readers are skeptical, so let’s turn our attention to Abramski v. United States from June 2014 wherein conservative Justice Scalia’s court said very clearly that any pruchase on behalf of a third party, whether or not that third party is prohibited tor not, is a felony straw purchase. That’s the law, and… Read more »

Considering your understanding of legal issues – have you read up on the IRS regulations for 501c3 status that you are claiming on your site where you are taking donations? Considering the fact that you are endorsing politicians and also contributing to political campaigning I would say that anything coming from you is nonsense. Btw the court has defined very good what is to be called a straw purchase and it is not what you claim. You can legally and in full compliance with the law purchase a gun and give it away to anybody that can legally own a… Read more »


I’m sorry, I am not an ATF agent or a lawyer, but how do you answer the following question with a straight face? : 11a. Are you the actual transferee/buyer of the firearm(s) listed on this form? Warning: You are not the actual buyer if you are acquiring the firearm(s) on behalf of another person. If you are not the actual buyer, the dealer cannot transfer the firearm(s) to you. (See Instructions for Question 11.a.) Exception: If you are picking up a repaired firearm(s) for another person, you are not required to answer 11.a. and may proceed to question 11.b… Read more »

1) Justice Scalia was one of the dissenting justices in the case you cite – in fact, he wrote the dissenting opinion issued by the court. This makes it misleading (at best) to claim “his” court made the ruling. 2) In the case you cite, the buyer was paid in advance to purchase the firearm on behalf of a relative. That prior arrangement was the crux of the legal issue. Purchasing a firearm that you intend to later give to as a gift to a non-prohibited person is still not considered a straw purchase, as Justice Scalia specifically noted in… Read more »


It might just be me but if I purchase another gun, other than my better half having a hissy fit, using my pension check proceeds could also be deemed a straw purchase? My point is the money is or should be a non starter. The person filling out the 4473 is supposedly representing him/herself as the owner. What if I cut grass for the Gun Shop to pay for the gun? Is Barter now against the law too? The most over litigated four words in the Constitution. “shall not be infringed” I hope I live long enough to see reading… Read more »

“Just tell the truth”, says a representative of the Brady Campaign.

Thanks for that – I don’t think I’ve laughed that much in a month. Just the thing to brighten a gloomy winter day!

Check out the ATF’s instructions for Form 4473: On Page 4 for question 11a, it’s pretty clear that you are the actual transferee/buyer if you are legitimately purchasing the firearm as gift for a third party.

Sean: Why don’t you liars just admit your ultimate goal: the confiscation and destruction of every firearm from every law-abiding citizen in this country. Your organization claims its goal is “gun safety”. Requiring a “universal background check” be conducted so that I may give a family heirloom to one of my grandchildren serves no justifiable, crime-reducing purpose. That being the case, please provide a detailing listing of any and all firearms safety courses/classes your outfit has conducted. You charlatans aren’t fooling us; we KNOW your goal(s). I know the concept is totally foreign to you, but try being HONEST for… Read more »


Or course if we got rid of the repeat offenders, straw purchases wouldn’t happen.


Similar incident here when I tried to purchase a replacement pistol for my LEO son whose weapon had malfunctioned. In his org, a FL state agency, they had to but their own weapons – he was tight on cash and I offered to buy. Went to the gun store and the salesman at first refused even though my son had his badge and ID and I had a CCW permit (no waiting period for me but one for him). So I bought it for me and gave my son an early birthday present when we got home. Absurd.