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Appeals Court Rules Drug Users Can't Be Barred From Owning Guns

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that a decades-old law prohibiting users of illegal drugs from owning firearms was unconstitutional as applied to the case of a marijuana user, the latest fallout from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that expanded gun rights. A three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the federal law violated a Mississippi man's right to "keep and bear arms" under the Constitution's Second Amendment, according to Reuters. The man, Patrick Daniels, had been convicted after officers found a pistol and a semi-automatic rifle in his vehicle during a traffic stop along with marijuana cigarette butts. Though he was not given a drug test, Daniels admitted he sometimes smoked marijuana, which federal law prohibits. He was sentenced to nearly four years in prison.

While his case was pending, the Supreme Court in June 2022 declared for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense.

That decision, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, announced a new test for assessing firearms laws, saying restrictions must be "consistent with this nation's historical tradition of firearm regulation." U.S. Circuit Judge Jerry Smith said that decision meant the statute was invalid as applied to 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," he wrote.


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