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UNITED STATES v. ANAYA

July 26, 1985

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ELIBERTO ANAYA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Eliberto Anaya ("Anaya") has been charged in a 30-count superseding indictment (the "Indictment") with violations of federal firearms laws. Each of the odd-numbered counts, charging a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6) ("Section 922(a)(6)"), alleges Anaya knowingly furnished false identification (bearing the name "Jose Ceja") on a specified date*fn1 in connection with the acquisition of a firearm from federally licensed firearm dealer R.H. Tasso ("Tasso"). Each even-numbered court, charging a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(a) ("Section 924(a)"), alleges Anaya knowingly made a false statement or representation of information (Anaya's true name) Tasso was required to maintain in his records under federal law. Anaya has now moved to dismiss all 30 counts of the Indictment. For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order Anaya's motion is denied.

Odd-Numbered Counts

Section 922(a)(6) makes it unlawful:

  for any person in connection with the acquisition
  or attempted acquisition of any firearm or
  ammunition from a licensed importer, licensed
  manufacturer, licensed dealer, or licensed
  collector, knowingly to make any false or
  fictitious oral or written statement or to furnish
  or exhibit any false, fictitious, or
  misrepresented identification, intended or likely
  to deceive such importer, manufacturer, dealer, or
  collector with respect to any fact material to the
  lawfulness of the sale or other disposition of
  such firearm or ammunition under the provisions of
  this chapter.

Each odd-numbered count recapitulates the statutory language in conjunction with the bare factual allegation that Anaya furnished identification bearing the name "Jose Ceja" on a specified occasion. Focusing on the phrase "material to the lawfulness of the sale," Anaya Motion To Dismiss Odd-Numbered Counts ("Odd-Numbered Mem.") 2 argues the Indictment is insufficient because it does not "allege in what manner the true identity of Eliberto Anaya was material to the lawfulness of the various sales of firearms." Anaya claims true identity is not a material fact in itself. Instead identity becomes material only if and when its misrepresentation effectively conceals a prior felony conviction, nonresidency in the state or some other condition the firearms law seeks to regulate.

That argument is founded in part on the notion Section 922(a)(6) was designed only to regulate access to firearms by certain classes of people. As the Supreme Court said in Huddleston v. United States, 415 U.S. 814, 824-25, 94 S.Ct. 1262, 1268-69, 39 L.Ed.2d 782 (1974):

  The principal purpose of the federal gun control
  legislation, therefore, was to curb crime by
  keeping "firearms out of the hands of those not
  legally entitled to possess them because of age,
  criminal background, or incompetency." S.Rep. No.
  1501, 90th Cong., 2d Sess., 22 (1968).
  Information drawn from records kept by dealers was
  a prime guarantee of the Act's effectiveness in
  keeping "these lethal weapons out of the hands of
  criminals, drug addicts, mentally disordered
  persons, juveniles, and other persons whose
  possession of them is too high a price in danger
  to us all to allow." 114 Cong.Rec. 13219 (1968)
  (remarks of Sen. Tydings). Thus, any false
  statement with respect to the eligibility of a
  person

  to obtain a firearm from a licensed dealer was
  made subject to a criminal penalty.

But of course the "principal purpose" of a statute is not the same thing as its entire purpose. Section 922(a)(6) was first enacted as part of Title IV of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 ("Title IV"). S.Rep. No. 1097 (the "Report"), 1968 U.S.Code Cong. & Ad.News 2112, 2114 (emphasis added) defined the problem addressed by the firearms provisions of Title IV:

  The ready availability; that is, ease with which
  any person can anonymously acquire firearms
  (including criminals, juveniles without the
  knowledge or consent of their parents or guardians,
  narcotic addicts, mental defectives, armed groups
  who would supplant duly constituted public
  authorities, and others whose possession of
  firearms is similarly contrary to the public
  interest) is a matter of serious national concern.

That passage makes it plain Congress, while concerned with the easy access of certain classes of people to firearms, was worried as well about the unregulated distribution of firearms throughout the population as a whole. Each time any person (though not a felon, juvenile or member of any other specifically mentioned group) purchases a firearm under a false identity, one more weapon is loose in the nation, untraceable by law enforcement authorities and available to resurface in the context of a violent crime or some other public disruption.

Reflecting that concern, the Report's section-by-section commentary on Title IV states as to Section 922(a)(6) (1968 U.S.Code Cong. & Ad.News at 2203) (emphasis added):

  This paragraph prohibits the making of false
  statements or the use of any deceitful practice
  (both knowingly) by a person in connection with
  the acquisition or attempted acquisition of a
  firearm from a licensee. To invoke the
  prohibition, the false statement or deceitful
  practice must be material to the lawfulness of the
  sale of the firearm under the provisions of the
  title. The requirement that one who obtains a
  firearm from a licensee must properly identify
  himself is inherent in this ...

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