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'Straw' gun buyers often are women in abusive relationships

Stephen Montemayor, Star Tribune on

Published in News & Features

MINNEAPOLIS — They wanted to please their partners.

One woman led an afterschool program. Another helped manage her daughter's child-care center. A third worked as a Hennepin County corrections officer. Their spotless records gave the men in their lives — felons who weren't legally allowed to possess a firearm — access to guns.

Over the past decade, federal agents and prosecutors in Minnesota have gone after those responsible for putting guns in the hands of people barred from owning them. This is often done through "straw purchasing," when a person who's legally able to buy a gun lies on federal paperwork and then hands the firearm to someone prohibited from possessing guns or ammunition.

The practice can have catastrophic consequences — such as the February killings of three first responders in Burnsville by Shannon Cortez Gooden. A federal grand jury indicted Gooden's live-in girlfriend, Ashley Dyrdahl, a month later on charges that include straw purchasing for allegedly buying the guns Gooden used in the shootout. He later turned a gun on himself.

"Thanks for making me so happy," Gooden texted Dyrdahl one afternoon from a firing range, boasting about the high-powered ammunition he would use to kill two police officers and a firefighter-paramedic days later.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger, whose office is prosecuting Dyrdahl, said in a recent interview that the nature of straw purchasing in Minnesota is evolving. New court filings describe federal agents investigating a new conspiracy to unleash dozens of firearms on the streets of Minneapolis.


But Dyrdahl's case fits a pattern that has repeated itself for at least a decade: A Minneapolis Star Tribune review of more than two dozen such cases charged since 2014 found that a majority involve women connected to an intimate partner, close friend or relative who leaned on them to get their guns. And many of their cases reveal backdrops of trauma or domestic violence.

I was in a physically and verbally abusive relationship at the time, one woman explained to a judge.

The attorney for another argued: She was in a relationship with a person who emotionally exploited her to purchase firearms because he could not.

You have gone through trauma that's extreme, a judge observed before sentencing one woman.


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