Thursday, May 01, 2014

Second Amendment Doesn't Protect Pot User's Possession of Firearms

US v. Carter: Carter was a user of marijuana.  Police arrived at his home, pursuant to a complaint about drug dealing.  Carter allowed them to enter and informed the officers he had two guns in the house.  There was no evidence of drug dealing.  Carter, nonetheless, was charged with being a drug user in possession of a firearm.  He moved to dismiss the charge, arguing that the statute violated his right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment.  He possessed the guns for his own protection, he argued (shortly after his arrest, Carter's neighbor was shot 8 times in a robbery).  The district court denied the motion, Carter entered a conditional guilty plea and was sentenced to probation.

In an initial appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed the conviction and remanded to the district court.  Applying the two-step intermediate scrutiny analysis from Chester, the court concluded that while Carter's drug use took him outside the "core" of the Second Amendment right, the Government has not shown the right "fit" between the statute and its compelling interest in attacking gun violence.  The court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings.

On remand, the parties submitted numerous studies addressing drugs and firearms.  Upon review of those submissions (and some the district court requested by put into the record at its request), the district court again denied Carter's motion to dismiss.  The district court concluded that the studies showed a link between gun use and drugs that made the statute an appropriate fit, noting it only had to be "reasonable," not "perfect."  Carter's term of probation - which he had already successfully completed - was reimposed.

Carter returned to the Fourth Circuit, which again affirmed the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss.  The court first rejected Carter's argument that the district court erred by relying on factors outside the record generated on remand - including "common sense" - that had been available to the court on the first appeal.  It then proceeded to examine the studies submitted on remand and concluded that the Government's studies showed a "strong link between drug use and violence" and dismissed Carter's argument that the studies were flawed, overbroad, and dealt with drugs aside from marijuana.  As a result, the court joined every other Circuit Court do address the issue and concluded that the drug-user-in-posession-of-a-firearm statute does not fun afoul of the Second Amendment.

DISCLAIMER: Your humble narrator was co-counsel for Carter on this case.

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