The Department of Justice (DOJ) backed a ban on gun possession for marijuana users on Wednesday because individuals are “unlikely to put their guns away before using drugs.”
In a brief filed with Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the DOJ said the ban “comfortably” fits within the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation, pointing to precedents that permitted disarming individuals intoxicated by alcohol, deemed dangerous or who have a mental illness. It argued the Fifth Circuit erred when it found in a separate case challenging the ban that history would only support disarming individuals “currently under an impairing influence.”
“This case is an example: Harris claimed to lose one of his firearms (potentially at a bar) on the same evening that he smoked marijuana and was drunk,” the brief states. “Users are unlikely to put their guns away before using drugs and retrieve them only after regaining lucidity.”
“And it is unclear how the government could reasonably administer a regime that permitted confiscation only during the several-hour period a person is intoxicated,” the brief continues.
Erik Matthew Harris, a recreational marijuana user, was charged under a statute that bars firearm possession for anyone who is “an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance,” according to court documents. He argued in a brief Wednesday that there is “no scientific consensus that adult habitual or regular marijuana use is analogous to or triggers conditions analogous to schizophrenia or other mental illnesses or cognitive impairments.”
Additionally, Harris’ brief states that there was no history or tradition at the founding “of disarming people based on mental illness or cognitive impairments or a potential of forming an illness due to their behaviors.”
The federal government filed a brief today in support of the ban on gun possession by marijuana users, saying they pose a "danger to society" and they're "unlikely to put their guns away before using drugs" (unlike alcohol drinkers, apparently): https://t.co/LoYnThLIZs pic.twitter.com/fdJsEUHBib
— Firearms Policy Coalition (@gunpolicy) November 15, 2023
The court had asked the parties to weigh in on whether “habitual ingestion of regulated substances, including, marijuana, is analogous to or triggers conditions analogous to schizophrenia or other mental illnesses or cognitive impairments,” according to the briefs.
The Fifth Circuit majority noted in its August ruling that the “Founders purportedly institutionalized the insane and stripped them of their guns; but they allowed alcoholics to possess firearms while sober.”
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