A federal judge in Oklahoma has ruled that a federal law prohibiting marijuana users from owning firearms is unconstitutional. The ruling is the latest to remove firearms restrictions based on the reasoning in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.
In Bruen, the court ruled that, for regulations to be constitutional, they must not encroach on conduct plainly covered by the Second Amendment’s text, and any regulations must be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition.” To be consistent with that tradition, the regulation must have a parallel in the types of regulations that were in place at the time of the Constitution’s framing.
Is Marijuana a Risk for Gun Owners?
In the Oklahoma case, Jared Michael Harrison was arrested in May 2022 after a traffic stop. While searching his car, police found a loaded gun and marijuana. Harrison told police he was on his way to his job at a medical marijuana dispensary and that he did not have a state-issued medical-marijuana card. Recreational marijuana is not legal in Oklahoma, but residents there will vote on the matter in a few weeks.
Lawyers for Mr. Harrison argued that a federal law that makes firearm possession illegal for “unlawful users or addicts of controlled substances” violated their client’s Second Amendment rights. Mirroring the argument in Bruen, Harrison’s lawyers argued that the “drug users or addicts” portion of the federal statute was not consistent with the U.S.’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.
Federal prosecutors, on the other hand, argued that the law was in fact consistent with a longstanding historical tradition in America — that disarming presumptively risky individuals like felons, those who are mentally ill, and those who are intoxicated, is in the public’s interest.
Regulations too Broad for a Widely Accepted Substance
Judge Patrick Wyrick of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma sided with Harrison’s lawyers, ruling that a person’s status as a marijuana user does not justify stripping them of fundamental right to possess firearms. The judge pointed out that more than 2,000 stores in the state sell marijuana legally.
In his written opinion, Wyrick noted that the nation’s actual “historical tradition” gives Congress grounds to regulate firearm ownership of those with a history of committing violent acts. “The use of marijuana … is not in and of itself a violent, foreceful, or threatening act. It is not a ‘crime of violence.’ Nor does it involve ‘the actual use or threatened use of force,’” he wrote.
The ruling is the latest in a string of such cases. For example, a federal judge in Midland, Texas, last year ruled that a law that bans firearms possession by those under felony indictment but not yet convicted was unconstitutional. Additionally, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled this month that the government cannot ban people who have domestic violence restraining orders from owning guns.
What Do These Decisions Mean for You?
Who may and may not possess firearms is regulated at both the federal and state level. The laws involved often interact and can cause confusion. The onslaught of cases making their way through the courts only adds to the confusion. For now, this Oklahoma ruling does not affect how the law is enforced across the country. You could potentially face similar charges as Harrison. Other federal courts may not see the law in the same way as Wyrick did in Oklahoma.
However, given other rulings in favor of expanding gun ownership rights, it is possible that the federal law at issue in this case could eventually get tossed by the Supreme Court.
Because the consequences of violating gun statutes can be severe, you should consider consulting with a knowledgeable attorney in your area about your rights and responsibilities. Gun rights regulations are constantly in flux, but a licensed attorney can help you navigate this ever-changing landscape.
- Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer Near You (FindLaw’s Lawyer Directory)
- Can We Now Agree on More Restrictions on Gun Ownership? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)
- How Do ‘Red Flag’ Gun Laws Work? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)
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