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New York Times Claims Hunter Biden Trial is Bad News... for 2A Groups

AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Hunter Biden's legal troubles aren't causing me to lose any sleep, nor have I had any internal conflict trying to cover his trial on federal gun charges, but according to the New York Times, Second Amendment organizations "have tied themselves in knots over the case, trying to reconcile their political efforts to defeat President Biden with their attacks on the instant check system."

The evidence for the Times's assertion is, well, paper-thin. Reporter Jonathan Weisman points to a couple of fairly generic statements from gun rights groups, neither of which indicate that Biden's charges for lying about his drug use and addiction on the Form 4473 that was filled out when he purchased a handgun have left 2A defenders conflicted. 

“Gun Owners of America believes that the gun control Hunter Biden violated is unconstitutional and Forms 4473 shouldn’t even exist,” said Erich Pratt, the group’s senior vice president. “However, so long as these infringements remain on the books, Hunter Biden deserves no special treatment from the D.O.J.”

Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, said, “The N.R.A. is a determined advocate for Second Amendment rights for every law-abiding American, but we draw the line with criminal behavior.”

To be fair, that's a pretty awful statement from Arulunandam. There are a lot of unconstitutional gun laws on the books, so drawing the line at "criminal behavior" could mean that the NRA supports prosecuting concealed carry licensees who face felony charges for bringing their guns across state lines into places like New Jersey or New York, or for bringing a gun into a supposedly "sensitive" place like, say, Times Square (It's also interesting to see that Andrew Arulunandam is still with the organization after the election of Doug Hamlin as EVP and the return of Joe DeBergalis as head of General Operations, but that's a topic for another post altogether). 

Weisman insists there's a contradiction, and quotes Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin to that effect. 

And, Mr. Raskin added, “if anybody else in America was charged with lying on a federal form to get a handgun, the entire Republican apparatus would be mobilized to charge that his Second Amendment rights were being violated.”

I wish that were the case, but we can't even get the entire GOP caucus to rally behind people like Dexter Taylor, who was sentenced to ten years in prison for possessing unlicensed firearms in New York City. 

But I would also suggest to Mr. Weisman that, regardless of what he or his editors think, the GOP and Second Amendment organizations are not one and the same. If anything, Hunter Biden's trial on gun charges might have exposed a rift between law-and-order Republicans and those who believe that there are a whole host of gun laws that should be stripped from statute. I don't see any contradiction, however, in stating that Biden may have violated an unconstitutional law but so long as the law is in place the president's son shouldn't get a pass. 

Which brings us to the statute in question. Once again, I think it's inaccurate to claim that every Republican or every 2A supporter believes that there should be no background checks on commercial firearm sales, or that every conservative 2A fan believes that unlawful users of drugs should be able to purchase and possess a firearm. My guess is that you'd find far more support for prohibiting crack users or those addicted to heroin/fentanyl from purchasing a gun than those who use marijuana; a distinction that isn't made on Form 4473.  

The Supreme Court may offer a path forward, depending on what they say in Rahimi. It's possible the Court could rule that barring drug users from possessing a firearm violates the Constitution, but it's still okay to prohibit people from possessing or using guns while they're under the influence. The Court could even differentiate between "soft" drugs like marijuana, which has been legalized for medical or recreational use in 38 states, and harder drugs like cocaine, heroin, and meth, though I think that's a less likely possibility. 

Here's another problem with the New York Times spin: If Weisman wants to make the case that Hunter Biden's trial is awkward for gun rights advocates, shouldn't he also explore the problematic nature of the charges when it comes to gun control groups? After all, they've been maintaining radio silence on the trial as well, and for good reason. They fully support the statute in question, as well as DOJ's contention that only "law-abiding citizens" possess a right to keep and bear arms, but that doesn't mean they're looking forward to seeing the son of their endorsed presidential candidate go to prison if he's convicted of being an unlawful user of drugs who lied about his addiction when he filled out the background check form. 

Will Weisman or any other New York Times reporter bother to ask Everytown or Giffords spokespeople what they think about putting someone in federal prison for using drugs and owning guns? I certainly hope so, but I'm not holding my breath. The liberal media is awfully good at avoiding any questions that might prove difficult for the gun control lobby to answer, and I suspect the Times will give gun control groups a pass, at least until a verdict is reached. If Biden is convicted we'll see boilerplate statements about how no one is above the law, but they'll continue to ignore one of the questions at the heart of Biden's trial: whether the law itself is unjust and unconstitutional.