Amy Paulin Introduces Measures to Close Loopholes Around “Straw Purchases” of Ammunition

August 18, 2019

Albany, NY – Prompted by developing details in the case of the August 4 mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) announced that she will be introducing two measures to close gaps in existing laws relating to so-called “straw purchases” of ammunition.

Although New York’s existing laws are among the nation’s strongest in cracking down on individuals purchasing firearms, rifles, and shotguns in order to provide them to persons who would not be able to pass a background check or who are otherwise barred from possessing guns, commonly known as “straw purchases,” no equivalent provision exists for a purchase of ammunition designed to circumvent the law.

“After each unthinkable tragedy of gun violence, we have to re-examine our own laws to make sure we are taking every reasonable precaution to keep our families and our communities safe,” said Assemblymember Paulin. “Thanks to the Governor’s and the Legislature’s leadership on this issue and to years of hard work on the part of gun safety advocates, New York has the strongest background check system in the country, a demonstrated ability to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands, and effective bans on the assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that make these high-profile and shockingly evil acts so deadly. The policies I’ll be introducing will close additional loopholes and further solidify our efforts to prevent gun violence.”

New York is already one of the few states to require a background check on the purchase of ammunition itself, not just guns. The state also established the crime of “criminal purchase or disposal of a weapon” to go after straw purchases – the knowing purchase of a firearm, rifle, or shotgun specifically to provide it to individuals who would not be legally allowed to purchase it themselves. The same law also makes it illegal for an individual to purchase a weapon when they know that they are legally prohibited from possessing it. However, although ammunition purchases require a background check, there is not a corresponding law to prevent the straw purchase of ammunition.

Although the AR-15 style .223-caliber pistol used in the Dayton, Ohio mass shooting was purchased legally by the shooter, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the office of United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio have reported that the gunman did not purchase all of the ammunition used in the shooting himself. A friend of the shooter, who is currently being held on an unrelated weapons charges, made the purchase. Although this was done to prevent discovery by the gunman's parents and not to evade federal or Ohio state laws, the incident exposes a similar vulnerability in New York’s laws.

To close this gap, Assemblymember Paulin will be introducing a new bill to amend section 265.17 of the Penal Law to make “straw purchases” of ammunition a crime.

Assemblymember Paulin also announced that she will be amend her existing bill (A. 1054) which would reduce gun trafficking by making it more difficult for criminals to obtain firearms, rifles and shotguns from gun dealers, with a special emphasis on straw purchasers. In 2000, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) conducted an investigation of gun trafficking from July 1996 to December 1998 and found almost 26,000 trafficked firearms were associated with investigations in which there was a straw purchaser. Almost 50% of all trafficking investigations involved straw purchasers, with an average of 37 firearms trafficked per investigation. Although federally licensed gun dealers were involved in under 10% of the trafficking investigations undertaken by ATF, they were associated with the largest number of diverted firearms--over 40,000 guns, which is nearly half of the total number of trafficked firearms documented during the two-year period of ATF's investigation.

The bill already (1) requires gun dealers to display and store weapons and ammunition in a secure manner; (2) provides that guns may be sold only at the location listed on the dealer's federal firearms license or at gun shows; (3) requires that all dealer employees making retail gun sales must be at least 21 years of age and must receive adequate training; (4) provides that children may not enter premises where guns are sold unless accompanied by a parent or guardian; (5) requires gun dealers to maintain sales records and periodically submit them to the state police; and (6) requires gun dealers to establish internal compliance procedures, and to certify compliance annually. The bill will now be amended to redefine straw purchases and make it clear that the bill will apply to the purchase of ammunition as well.

“Despite all our progress, it is still simply too easy for guns to fall into the wrong hands,” said Assemblymember Amy Paulin. “Unfortunately, we know that because the details of these mass shooting incidents receive such extensive coverage, the gaps and weaknesses they expose in our public safety laws can be studied and exploited by gun traffickers, violent criminals, and even those contemplating future mass shooting attempts. Those of us committed to ending the cycles of violence and reducing gun violence need to be just as vigilant.”