Does Drug Use Invalidate a Person’s Second Amendment Rights?

 Posted on March 31,2023 in Criminal Defense

Hartford Weapon Crime LawyerThe Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives Americans the right to keep and bear arms. While there have been debates over the extent of this right, it generally allows people to possess and use firearms, as long as they do so within the bounds of the law. However, even though organizations such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) have fought to expand gun rights and prevent the government from limiting people's ability to own and carry firearms, they have failed to address one specific area in which these rights may not apply. People who have used certain types of drugs or who have allegedly committed drug crimes may be prohibited from possessing firearms, and this is an ongoing area of concern for many criminal defendants.

Police Shooting Highlights Issues With Gun Rights of Drug Users

While the NRA has sought to prevent restrictions on the ownership of guns by most people, it has notably failed to address prohibitions on firearm possession by people who have used drugs. Federal laws state that people who are "unlawful drug users" or who are addicted to controlled substances are prohibited from possessing or receiving firearms or ammunition. While this law has been on the books since 1968, it was updated by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022, which extended the prison sentence a person could face for committing this offense from 10 to 15 years.

There are a number of concerns about how this law affects people's rights to own firearms. While many believe that it is necessary to restrict gun rights for convicted felons or others who are considered to be dangerous, it may not make sense to apply the same restrictions to casual drug users. This issue has become more notable as the use of marijuana has been made legal in many parts of the United States. Since marijuana is still considered to be an illegal controlled substance by the federal government, people who use this drug and own or possess firearms may be in violation of federal law. This has led to a ban on gun ownership for some people who use medical marijuana or who are allowed to use recreational marijuana based on state laws.

One of the most notable examples of the conflict between gun ownership rights and restrictions that apply to drug users occurred in the case of Philando Castile, a Black man who was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop that took place in Minnesota in 2016. Castile was pulled over by a police officer who stated that he had done so because of a broken taillight, although the officer later reported that he believed that Castile looked like a suspect in a robbery case. During the stop, Castile informed the officer that he was carrying a handgun. Following the officer's instructions, he reached for his wallet while repeatedly informing the officer that he was not reaching for the gun. However, the officer still believed that Castile was attempting to draw his weapon, and he drew his own gun and fired seven times, killing Castile.

One significant issue addressed during the questioning of the officer after the incident was his belief that he smelled marijuana in the vehicle during the traffic stop. He stated that if Castile was a marijuana user who was carrying a gun, he was likely to be a drug dealer. This seemed to be a justification of the belief that Castile was a violent person who was likely to attempt to draw his weapon and fire at the police officer, and the officer claimed that deadly force was necessary because he was in fear for his life. The officer was later acquitted of second-degree manslaughter charges.

Notably, the NRA and many other gun rights advocates were silent following this incident. Even though Castile had purchased his gun legally and had a permit, his status as a drug user, which was verified after a bag of marijuana was found in his vehicle following the shooting, made it illegal for him to possess a firearm. Because of this, the NRA did not seem to feel that his right to bear arms should have been protected. This is an ongoing issue that affects many people throughout the United States who may face serious federal weapons charges based on their use of marijuana or other non-harmful drugs.

Contact Our Connecticut Drug Crimes Lawyer

Navigating the complex interplay between drug laws, firearm laws, and other criminal matters can often be confusing. Those who are facing charges at the state or federal level in these situations will need to make sure to understand their rights and their options for defense. They can do so with the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. At Woolf Law Firm, LLC, our Hartford weapons charges attorney can provide strong, effective representation in these cases, and we work to ensure that defendants can resolve matters successfully. Contact us today at 860-290-8690 to schedule a free consultation.



Share this post:
Logo Image 50 Founders Plaza
East Hartford, CT 06108
Phone: 860-290-8690
Fax: 860-290-8697
We are available by appointment during evening and weekend hours, if necessary.

FB   Twitter   Our Blog