The gun regulations in our country are in their most significant state of flux in living memory. State law proposals vary from eliminating carry license requirements altogether in Florida to increasing them exponentially in California. At the federal level, by executive fiat, Biden’s ATF plans to transform millions of common handguns into highly regulated and heavily taxed short-barreled rifles. In 2022, the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol v. Bruen reaffirmed that the Second Amendment includes the right to carry a gun outside the home, a decision that has had significant national ramifications. Now, the court cases demanding the imposition of Bruen against current federal gun law continue apace. The latest is the federal law that makes it a crime for marijuana users to own guns.
Bruen Standard on Gun Possession
On Feb. 2, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a federal prohibition on people under domestic violence restraining orders from owning firearms. Now a district court judge in a neighboring circuit has ruled that a different provision of federal law also is unconstitutional and for the same reason – Bruen. Patrick Wyrick, a Trump appointee to the Western District of Oklahoma, said the federal law prohibiting a drug user from possessing firearms “is unconstitutionally vague, in violation of the Due Process Clause, and unconstitutionally infringes upon [the] fundamental right to possess a firearm, in violation of the Second Amendment.”
When Jared Michael Harrison was pulled over in Lawton, OK, a search of his vehicle yielded a loaded revolver as well as “marijuana, THC gummies, two THC vape cartridges, and a pre-rolled marijuana cigarette and marijuana stems in a tray.” He was prosecuted federally and indicted by a grand jury for violating 18 USC § 922(g)(3), which prohibits anyone “who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance” from possessing a gun. Wyrick discussed how federal gun law and marijuana law intersect:
“In its modern form, § 922(g)(3) thus strips a person of their fundamental right to possess a firearm the instant the person becomes an ‘unlawful user’ of marijuana. And in the United States’ view, all users of marijuana are ‘unlawful users.’”
One toke off a joint, and you have lost all your rights under the Second Amendment. That’s the Department of Justice’s position, which Wyrick has declared unconstitutional. Harrison will not have to defend himself at trial because the judge dismissed the indictment with prejudice. In the words of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in Bruen, laws against firearms possession must be “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition” to be valid.
Challenges to federal gun laws citing Bruen are seemingly in every circuit. We should expect to see more news like this, and while some cases will go the other way, Bruen’s expansion of Second Amendment recognition will be a welcome result to advocates of the right to keep and bear arms. Wyrick called this “one of a flood of motions that have been filed in this district and nationwide challenging the constitutionality of various subparts of 18 USC § 922 in light of Bruen’s directive that lower courts change their ways.”
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