Federal law Cannabis users are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms. There are a host of federal court cases that could find these prohibitions an unconstitutional violation of marijuana users’ rights to obtain guns. But even if courts find these laws unconstitutional, many cannabis users still face other federal government hurdles and restrictions.
If you are not familiar with the state of federal laws and would like comprehensive information, I suggest you first check out any of my previous posts on the subject, which are given below. But the first two sentences of this post basically sum up the situation so far. Suppose the courts invalidate federal gun control laws for cannabis users. Today I’m going to examine two ways that I think the federal government will try to restrict gun rights.
Misrepresentations in federal background check forms may result in charges being filed
First, the government can charge marijuana users who purchased firearms during the time the federal restrictions were in effect. Remember, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) requires gun buyers to fill out ATF 4473 The form asking “yes” or “no” for the following:
Are you an illegal user or addicted to marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, drug or other controlled substance?
warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains illegal under federal law regardless of whether or not it is legalized for medical or recreational purposes in your state.
People who answer “no” but actually use cannabis can be found guilty of a felony. While these trials are rare, they still happen. Two notable recent examples are what have been reported Investigating Hunter Bidenand the charges against Mother of a 6-year-old student who allegedly shot her teacher. Even if federal courts completely remove restrictions on marijuana users’ rights to obtain guns, it won’t affect the potential for federal charges for filing misrepresentations regarding ATF 4473.
Previous marijuana convictions may restrict the right to have a gun
Second, marijuana users who have been convicted of certain crimes may still be denied Second Amendment rights after the law changes. One of the other questions in ATF 4473 asks (with emphasis in the original): “Have you ever been convicted in any court, including a military court, felony, Or any other offense for which a judge could have imprisoned you for more than a year, even if you had been given a shorter sentence including probation? “
Under this question, convictions for misdemeanors of any kind simply were may have him resulted in more than a year in prison (even if they didn’t actually do so), enough to refuse to purchase a firearm. So anyone convicted of a marijuana-related crime who simply would have been sentenced to more than a year, even if that didn’t happen, could lose their gun rights. This also wouldn’t necessarily change even if federal courts got rid of marijuana-related prohibitions.
However, it appears that even this federal restriction may soon be gone. The third federal appeals court recently ruled in a case, fifth scale. United States Attorney GeneralConsidering that this law is invalid as applied to the plaintiff. Ring had previously pleaded guilty to a nonviolent state misdemeanor that could have landed him more than a year in prison, although he was only sentenced to probation. After being denied the purchase of a firearm, he sued, and after preliminary proceedings, a federal appeals court held the law to be invalid as applied to him. While this is only a challenge implemented in one federal circuit, it could lead to a broader US Supreme Court convening in the future.
What the future may hold for cannabis users’ firearm rights
Personally, I think there is a very good chance that the Supreme Court will place unconstitutional federal restrictions on cannabis users who own and possess firearms. I also think there is a reasonably good chance that the court will impose unconstitutional restrictions in respect of certain non-violent crimes. It’s all remote, and nothing is guaranteed. Even if some restrictions are scaled back, the government will have other tools at its disposal to restrict cannabis users’ rights to obtain guns absent a significant change in federal law or enforcement, which is always possible but seems less likely given current political trends.
If you’d like to read my previous posts about cannabis users and gun rights, please see:
As always, stay tuned Kana Law blog for more updates.