I get that President Joe Biden isn’t a big fan of the right to keep and bear arms. Not for individuals, anyway, which he has made abundantly clear over the years. He doesn’t think the Second Amendment applies to you and me, just states, apparently.
No, it doesn’t make any sense to me, either, yet here we are.
One thing he does seem to support is changing the laws around marijuana use. Well, at least, up to a point.
President Joe Biden thinks it is unfair that people convicted of simple marijuana possession face lingering consequences for doing something that he says should not be treated as a crime. Biden cited those burdens last October, when he announced a mass pardon of low-level federal marijuana offenders, which he said would help “thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession” and “who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result.” Yet the Biden administration, which recently began accepting applications for pardon certificates aimed at ameliorating those consequences after dragging its feet for five months, is actively defending another blatantly unjust disability associated with cannabis consumption: the loss of Second Amendment rights.
Under federal law, it is a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, for an “unlawful user” of a “controlled substance” to possess firearms. The ban applies to all cannabis consumers, even if they live in one of the 37 states that have legalized medical or recreational use. That disability, a federal judge in Oklahoma ruled last month, is not “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation”—the constitutional test established by the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. The Justice Department recently filed a notice indicating that it intends to appeal the decision against the gun ban for marijuana users.
The Biden administration’s defense of the ban relies on empirically and historically dubious assertions about the sort of people who deserve to exercise the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Among other things, the Justice Department argues that “the people” covered by the Second Amendment do not include Americans who break the law, no matter how trivial the offense. It also argues that marijuana users are ipso facto untrustworthy and unvirtuous, which it says makes them ineligible for gun rights.
Now, there are a few things to discuss here.
First, there’s a great deal of hypocrisy in pretending that people who use marijuana did nothing wrong while still seeking to prohibit them from owning a gun. I fail to see how Biden can truly rectify this disparity in approach.
Well, I suppose I can.
This is all supposition on my part, mind you, but it’s not difficult to see how Biden can justify this in his own mind if nowhere else if you imagine that the crux of the problem here isn’t marijuana use but gun ownership. Pushing this prohibition isn’t an assault on pot use but on guns themselves.
If you view it through that lens, it’s a little easier to see some kind of consistency at work.
Yet through that lens, we can also see that it’s likely the Biden administration will continue to work to eradicate our right to keep and bear arms. We know this is the goal, but few politicians who actually want to win an election can openly say it.
Approaching things like this, though–by denying the right to various groups and adding to those groups incrementally–is a lot easier to justify.
That brings us to the second point.
Reason’s Jacob Sullum writes, “Among other things, the Justice Department argues that ‘the people’ covered by the Second Amendment do not include Americans who break the law, no matter how trivial the offense.” While those are his words and not the Biden administration’s, we would be foolish not to view the White House’s efforts through that very lens.
Throughout the nation, we’ve seen people try to find various ways to expand the list of prohibited people, such as those convicted of DUI. This is never framed as a way to try and deter people from drunk driving, either, but is presented as gun control.
The thing is, though, DUI may be fairly serious as things go, but it’s still relatively trivial when you look at the loss of one’s rights. It’s not a felony conviction, after all.
As a result, Sullum’s choice of words “no matter how trivial the offense” rings true of gun control in general, if not of the Biden administration specifically.
Yet it’s not like the president has spoken out against this sort of thing, either.
Either way, Biden is clearly talking out of both sides of his mouth, no matter how he tries to rationalize it to himself. Either marijuana use is no big deal or it’s such a big deal that gun rights must be restricted. You don’t get to have it both ways.