FOX 45 Investigates: What's being done to stop "straw buying" of guns
Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - A Northeast Ohio man has been charged with aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.
A federal criminal complaint said Gerald Lawson allegedly acted as a straw purchaser for Quentin Smith, the accused shooter of two Westerville police officers killed Saturday.
FOX 45's Kelly May investigates what's being done to stop "straw buying" of guns.
"Straw purchases in the industry is a huge problem which gets very little attention unfortunately until a horrific crime like this," said Joe Eaton with Buckeye Firearms Association.
The association advocates for second amendments, but even Eaton admits some legal gun purchases can be flawed.
"I don't think that his friend was an unknowing participant in this crime," Eaton said about Lawson's involvement.
"It becomes a crime if you knowingly purchase a firearm for someone who can't possess it," he continued, "and you're knowingly purchasing it for them to get around the background checks."
At gun retailer The Miami Armory in Miamisburg, owner David Becker says a federal form is required to sell a gun, but he takes the process even further.
"To the point of the Westerville police officer shooting," Becker said, "It's very hard to determine without having a lengthy conversation in there of what this person is buying it for, are they buying it legally?"
Becker said there's one question on the form that a strawbuyer would lie on.
"Asking are you the actual buyer of the firearm that we're going to list on this form today, at that point the answer should generally be yes," said Becker.
If the answer to that question is no, Becker says the purchase stops there, but that's also where he says a strawbuyer will lie.
"Ultimately the consumer can choose to lie on that," he said.
Becker said he trains his employees to ask other personal questions during the sale and background check process, to feel out the buyer's intentions.
But the form, and any other questions asked, are the only firewalls to keep guns out of illegal buyers hands.
"Just the totality of the situation is heartbreaking," said Eaton.
Both Becker and Eaton said straw buying crimes aren't something that's regularly tracked.
Becker said he only finds out about one when he's subpoenaed for the Federal ATF Form 4473, because a gun he has sold has been involved in a crime. Here's a copy of that form: