A federal appeals court overturned a 1968 federal law that prevented individuals using illegal drugs from owning firearms on Wednesday. The court determined that the law conflicted with the Second Amendment.
Last year, Patrick Daniels from Mississippi was arrested when police found several marijuana cigarette butts and two loaded firearms, a semi-automatic rifle, and a 9mm pistol, in his vehicle during a traffic stop.
Daniels did admit to chronic marijuana use, but whether he was under the influence at the time of his arrest is unclear, as he was never subjected to a drug test. His confession of drug use placed him in breach of a federal law prohibiting anyone from possessing a firearm. Who is an “unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.”
CNN reports that Daniels was convicted and sentenced to almost four years in prison and three years on probation. Nevertheless, his conviction was overturned by a unanimous three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. They determined that the law infringed on the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.”
According to Reuters, the panel referred to the Supreme Court’s June 2022 ruling regarding a New York case that emphasized an individual’s right to carry a handgun publicly for self-defense. This decision reshaped the legal framework used by lower courts for evaluating gun restrictions, demanding that such laws align with the nation’s historical tradition, as stated by the 5th Circuit decision.
U.S. Circuit Judge Jerry Smith wrote, “Our history and tradition may support limiting an intoxicated person’s right to bear arms, but it doesn’t justify taking away the rights of a sober citizen based solely on past drug use.
General traditions of disarming dangerous individuals do not support this restriction on nonviolent drug users.” He further stated that no historical basis exists for disarming a sober citizen not currently under any impairing influence.
Smith also mentioned that while the Founding Fathers may have disarmed the insane, they allowed individuals with alcohol addiction to own firearms while sober.
Judge Smith concluded that neither mental illness restrictions nor regulations regarding intoxication could justify Daniels’ conviction.
A concurring opinion from U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Higginson, a Barack Obama appointee, expressed strong criticism of the Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling. He wrote that it had been used inconsistently to dismantle laws that have protected the country for many years.
The ruling impacts Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi, but the precedent could have a broader influence, including on cases like that of Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son.
Hunter Biden is accused of misrepresenting his illegal drug use on ATF Form 4473 when purchasing a .38 revolver in 2018.
Unlike Daniels, Biden had publicly confessed to being a cocaine addict who was “smoking crack every 15 minutes” when he bought the firearm.