The opinion of the court was delivered by: SNYDER
The Defendant, Paul James Letky, was charged in a two count Indictment with violations of 18 U.S.C. § 922 (a) (6)
and 18 U.S.C. Appendix § 120(a) (1).
In Count One, the Defendant was charged with making a false and fictitious statement in a firearms transaction, i.e. that he had not been convicted of a crime punishable by a term exceeding one year. In Count Two, the Defendant was charged with wilfully and knowingly receiving and possessing a Universal Semi-Automatic Carbine which had been transported in interstate commerce. This case came before the Court for Non-Jury Trial on February 4, 1974. The following will constitute Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law in compliance with Rule 23(c) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
1. A.30 caliber semi-automatic carbine, serial number 124029 was manufactured by Universal Hialeagh of Miami, Florida. Universal shipped this firearm to Firearms Unlimited, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on April 3, 1968. Firearms Unlimited sold this firearm to West Hills Sport Shop, Coraopolis, Pennsylvania on April 5, 1968; West Hills Sport Shop sold the firearm to Frank Gausheman of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on April 16, 1968. Jones Swap Shop acquired the firearm from Gausheman and sold the weapon to Paul James Letky, 236 Churchill Street, McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania on December 3, 1971.
2. On May 18, 1972, the firearm in question was transferred from Letky to John Edelen.
3. When purchasing the firearm on December 3, 1971, Paul Letky signed the Firearms Transaction Record and answered Section 8(b) in the negative. Section 8(b) is as follows:
"Have you been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year? (Note: The actual sentence given by the judge does not matter -- a yes answer is necessary if the judge could have given a sentence of more than one year.) ' No '"
4. The Defendant, Paul Letky, had been convicted of burglary in 1965 and with possession of burglary tools in 1967. The 1965 burglary conviction was a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year.
6. The gun as offered in evidence clearly showed that it was sufficiently operable to constitute a firearm within the definition as set forth in 18 U.S.C. Appendix § 1202(c) (3).
7. The prosecution offered no proof that Jones Swap Shop was a licensed dealer as required by 18 U.S.C. § 922(a) (6).
The evidence was undisputed that the Defendant read the questions and signed the answers on Form 4473, Firearms Transaction Record, including Section 8(b) that he was not convicted of a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year. The Defendant acknowledged that he had read the questions and that he was in fact convicted, but he testified that he thought Section 8(b) was only meant to apply to him if he "had been in prison for over a year." In fact, he had been in prison for only six months. He further testified that he thought when he was "discharged" that this removed all stigma from his conviction and "restored all my civil rights." He even stated he thought about whether he might be qualified to buy a gun and discussed it with a friend, John Edelen, Jr., by telephone. Edelen was the person for whom the Defendant purchased the gun.
While proof of knowingly making a false statement is necessarily circumstantial, we believe that the evidence in this case shows proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the Defendant's statements were knowingly false although he testified that he misunderstood them. There may have been a great deal of difficulty in proving that a false statement had been "knowingly" made in the purchase of a firearm under the original version of Form 4473. In the original form the buyer's signature was at one place on the form and he was referred to another place on the form for the listing of persons prohibited from purchasing firearms. The revised form has largely eliminated the difficulty. United States v. Garcia, 4 ...