In the United States, there are a lot of gun laws on the books. Not as many as some would like, but there actually are a lot of them.
One of those laws says that people who use illegal drugs cannot lawfully own a firearm. This is, of course, using the federal definition of “illegal drugs” which includes marijuana, a substance that’s been legalized in many states even for recreational use.
As a result, those who wish to use these drugs while owning firearms have to decide if it’s worth it.
Yet, there’s a problem with these laws, and that’s the way they’re enforced, as Jacob Sullum notes over at Reason.
In a 2021 survey, 15 percent of American adults admitted using illegal drugs (mostly marijuana) in the previous month. Other surveys suggest that something like 12 million of those drug users owned guns, making them guilty of a federal felony that is currently punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Yet fewer than 150 Americans are prosecuted for that crime each year.
Those odds make Patrick Darnell Daniels Jr., a Mississippi man who had two guns and the remains of a few joints in his car when he was stopped for a traffic violation last year, extremely unlucky. But Daniels caught a break last week, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that his prosecution violated the Second Amendment, a decision that highlights the injustice of a policy that arbitrarily strips peaceful Americans of the constitutional right to armed self-defense.
Daniels committed the same gun crime as Hunter Biden: receipt or possession of a firearm by an “unlawful user” of a controlled substance. But while the president’s son would have escaped prosecution for that offense under a plea deal that a federal judge nixed last month, Daniels was sentenced to nearly four years in prison.
That stark contrast reinforces Republican complaints that Biden benefited from favoritism. But it only scratches the surface of the unequal treatment that results from combining a constitutionally dubious, widely flouted law with broad prosecutorial and judicial discretion.
It should be remembered, also, that Hunter Biden admitted not to using pot, which many states have legalized, but crack cocaine, which few people are arguing should be legalized.
Even Hunter’s dad, President Joe Biden, views marijuana differently from other drugs. As Sullum notes in his piece, Biden offered a mass pardon for those convicted of federal marijuana charges.
President Joe Biden says marijuana use should not be treated as a crime, a position reflected in his mass pardon for people convicted of simple possession under federal law. Yet his administration simultaneously insists that marijuana users are so dangerous that they cannot be trusted with guns—so dangerous, in fact, that the government is justified in sending them to prison for years if they dare to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
Honestly, if the Biden administration was at least consistent on the subject of marijuana, it would be a lot easier to see their defense of gun laws prohibiting pot users from owning guns would be easier to stomach.
As it is, what we see is that people with connections can get away with even hard drug use while owning guns while less fortunate people get no such leniency.
I get why gun laws like this exist. I honestly do. The idea that drug addicts could be walking around with guns and the police would be powerless to do anything about it is going to be alarming to a lot of people, and not without reason considering how some drug addicts act.
However, I’m pretty sure that based on the text and history standard laid out in the Bruen decision, such gun laws are unconstitutional.
Back in the time of the nation’s founding, laws prohibiting carrying a gun while intoxicated were common, but laws prohibiting gun ownership by those who used intoxicants weren’t. Those laws simply don’t exist in the historical record so far as I’ve been able to find.
So, no one should get their hopes up that such laws will be permitted to remain.