Murray • Individuals who are prohibited from possessing a firearm but “lie-and-try” to buy a gun anyway could end up doing a stretch behind bars.
And the federal firearms licensees who sell or transfer weapons to customers they have reasonable cause to believe are restricted from having guns; allow a straw purchaser to purchase a gun for someone else; or fail to keep proper records of the transactions could end up in an adjoining cell.
On Wednesday, Utah Project Safe Neighborhoods partners issued a warning that they’re targeting the buyers who lie on the required paperwork to make a gun purchase, as well as the licensed sellers who break the law when conducting the sale.
Speaking at a news conference at TNT Guns and Range, U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber said communities are safer when convicted felons and offenders who have committed acts of domestic violence are blocked from buying guns.
“That is not a good recipe for a convicted felon to have a firearm in their possession,” he said. “Good does not come from that combination.”
Huber added that everyone — including firearm buyers, gun store owners and law enforcement officers — plays a role in ensuring the law is followed. No one should ever purchase a weapon under his or her own name on behalf of someone else, he said.
“Don’t lie for the other guy or you’re going to face potentially some stiff federal consequences,” Huber said.
The maximum penalty for selling or transfering firearms to someone prohibited from possessing a gun or making a false statement during the purchase of firearms is 10 years in prison. A licensed dealer who is convicted of failure to keep proper records — such as failing to note the name, age and place of residence of the buyer — could end up behind bars for up to five years.
Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is a nationwide initiative designed to reduce gun violence in communities around the country. Participants in the effort include federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement; prosecutors; community members and organizations; victims’ advocates; and social service providers.
Tanner Nattress, owner of TNT Guns and Range, 5669 Commerce Drive, in Murray, said there have been only a handful of potential buyers at his store who did not pass the background check.
In addition to following laws governing paperwork and background checks, if customers say something that indicates they’re buying a gun as a gift — which is legal — “we do our best to try to make sure they’re not doing it because the other person can’t legally buy one,” Nattress said.
In rare cases, employees have declined to sell a firearm because they felt uncomfortable about doing it, he said.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera said the team in the past month alone has identified more than 25 instances where somebody lied to try to buy a gun and refer those cases for federal prosecution.
“We are going to continue to pursue these types of cases because it keeps our neighborhood safe,” Rivera said.
So far this year, 97 PSN firearms cases have been brought in Utah, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
To help federal firearms licensees comply with the law, PSN has produced a number of oversized clipboards that carry a warning for buyers filling out paperwork about the penalties for lying.