US Court Rules Drug Users Cannot Be Barred From Owning Guns, as Law Deemed Unconstitutional

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By NTD Newsroom
August 11, 2023Judiciary
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US Court Rules Drug Users Cannot Be Barred From Owning Guns, as Law Deemed Unconstitutional
A Glock 9mm pistol is displayed with 2 bullet clips at Shooters USA target range in Bossier City, La., on Sept. 11, 2004. (Mario Villafuerte/Getty Images)

A decades-old law prohibiting users of illicit drugs from owning firearms was overturned by a New Orleans federal appeals court on Aug. 9.

The law was deemed unconstitutional after the court ruled in favor of a Mississippi man who was jailed after firearms were discovered in his vehicle during a traffic stop in April 2022.

The ruling came after a three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the federal law violated the man’s right to “keep and bear arms” under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.

Patrick Daniels was convicted under that law and was sentenced to nearly four years in prison. During the traffic stop, law enforcement officers found a pistol and a semi-automatic rifle in his vehicle, as well as marijuana-cigarette butts.

Mr. Daniels was not subjected to a drug test by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. However, he admitted to smoking marijuana on occasions, leading to the subsequent conviction in October 2022 for breaking 18 U.S. Code 922, also known as the “Unlawful Acts” rule, according to Forbes.

The ruling followed a decision last year by the U.S. Supreme Court that resulted in a broadening of gun rights.

During the initial proceedings in June 2022, the Supreme Court declared for the first time that an individual’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense was protected under the Second Amendment.

According to the decision under New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, new tests for assessing existing firearm laws were discussed, with the caveat that restrictions must be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

According to a statement by U.S. Circuit Judge Jerry Smith, who was appointed by former president Ronald Reagan, the decision rendered the statute invalid as applied to Mr. Daniels.

“In short, our history and tradition may support some limits on an intoxicated person’s right to carry a weapon, but it does not justify disarming a sober citizen based exclusively on his past drug usage,” Judge Smith wrote.

The opinion was echoed by U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Higginson, who was appointed by former president Barack Obama. Judge Higginson pointed out that several other gun control laws have been abolished since the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Judge Higginson subsequently asked the court for more guidance in future cases, as the court’s ruling could set a precedent for the “dismantling of the laws that have served to protect our country for generations.”

Reuters contributed to this article.

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