What’s the Law: Straw Buyer



Topic: Straw Buyer

Question: I attended the March Gun Show with a good friend. I had my long gun permit, but my friend’s permit had expired and he did not renew in time due to the long lines at HPD. At the Show, my friend saw a rifle he wanted. I offered to use my permit since he didn’t have one. But he decided not to buy the rifle. My question is: Did I risk violating the straw buyer law and being subject to jail time — even as a federal offense?

Answer: Perhaps. And it depends if the seller was a FFL dealer or an individual. A firearms straw buyer is a person who is legally qualified and does purchase a firearm but intends to turn over possession to a person who is not legally qualified. Without a permit, your friend isn’t qualified.

This would be unlawful if buying a firearm from a FFL dealer. Question #11a of the ATF Form 4473 (so called “yellow form” a buyer completes when purchasing a firearm from an FFL) states: “Are you the actual transferee/buyer of the firearm(s)…?” If you are buying the firearm for your friend, you may well be in violation of federal law by making a false statement to this question. This is a felony and carries with it a maximum penalty of 5 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

The better way is for your friend is to give the FFL dealer a deposit or pay in full. Have the dealer hold the firearm while your friend obtains his permit.
If the seller is not a FFL dealer, the purchase by you may be lawful since there is no Form 4473 or statement required. Show the seller your long gun permit. Register the firearm in your name at HPD within 5 days. You must maintain actual possession of the firearm. When your friend obtains his permit, you can then transfer the firearm. But this is a hassle. Much easier just to give the seller a down payment and have your friend complete the sale and transfer after he gets his permit.

If you are a FFL, you cannot allow a straw buyer purchase. Best to have the buyer make a deposit and transfer the firearm after the 14-day requirement. If you are a private seller, it is still best to take deposit and wait out the 14 days. An interim private sale may not be illegal under Hawaii law, but your buyer must register the gun in his name within 5 days and you must send in the notice of transfer within 48 hours.

Added note: As a seller, it may be best to tell your buyer the deposit is non-refundable, since you will be taking the long gun off the gun show table and giving up opportunity to sell it to a qualified buyer if the sale falls through after the show.

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