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Illegal guns: The dangers of lying and buying

10:43 PM, May 17, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- Those fighting gun crimes on the street level ask the same question over and over: Where did the gun come from?

One source may surprise you: nearly half of criminals get their weapons from friends and family.

Go to buy a gun and it will be one of the first questions you are asked: who is this weapon really for?

"Every gun tells a story," said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Robin Shoemaker, who oversees the Columbus Field Division.

If you mark, "yes" it's for you, it's you who could be locked up when that gun gets into the wrong hands.

"If an individual comes in, and says yes I'm the actual purchaser of the firearm, and they're not, then it's lying and buying and they are subject to criminal charges," said Shoemaker.

Lying and buying, or "straw purchasing," is a loophole, a way to get around to the federal background check.

Lying for the other guy is a crime of high risk and low reward. And it's often women exploited to straw-purchase to money or for love.

"In 2002, I was arrested after straw-purchasing 40 guns from an Ohio gun store," said Rashandra Riley, testifying in front a Mayors Against Illegal Guns conference years ago.

"I knew nothing about buying guns, but I was buying them in large quantities," said Riley.

She agreed to sit down with Channel 3's Sara Shookman for an interview.

"I didn't really know what I was getting into. I was given a note to give to the gun store owner," she said. "I just thought, what I was doing was okay."

Federal agents from ATF arrested her after the man she was lying and buying for was charged with gun trafficking.

"That was the first time that I actually heard the judge read off everything that I had purchased, in my name. I just really couldn't believe it," said Riley.

"I mean, what would I want with 40 guns?" she said.

Riley was a college student at the time, on the Dean's List, with no criminal record. She was sentenced to probation. Now she's a mother with a Master's Degree, but this one bad decision still limits her life.

"It's really, really hard once you mark, 'yes I am a convicted felon,'" said Riley.

ATF agents and gun dealers see the scenario all the time, where women, often desperate to provide for their families, are straw-purchasing for others without considering the consequences.

 Agents in Cleveland want you, too, to know the signs of a straw purchase.

"If you cannot own a firearm, you cannot buy a firearm and you cannot have someone else buy it for you. And we will prosecute those folks to the fullest extent of the law," said Spc. Agent Shoemaker.

"They're not going to be there, the money's not going to be there anymore," said Riley. "None if it is really worth it when you talk about the wide scope of your life."

Some authorities believe stricter background checks in the future could actually lead illegal gun buyers to straw-purchasing to get a gun.

They stress personal responsibility for a weapon purchased in your name, even after you sell it.

This is no small crime in the eyes of the ATF. A person convicted of felony lying and buying could face a fine up to $250,000 and 10 years in prison.

WKYC-TV

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