What do Colorado, pot, guns have to do with one another? Many Conservatives believe in marijuana prohibition. So they might see this news from Reason.com as another sad defeat for Conservative culture.
Two Colorado firearms instructors are planning a ballot initiative in their state to help smash a huge violation of citizens’ rights: that marijuana smokers, according to the federal government, are not allowed to own guns.
The 1968 Gun Control Act declared in section 922(g) that unlawful users of, or those addicted to, a controlled substance can’t legally possess guns. As more and more Americans use marijuana, medically or recreationally, and legally under state law, the feds have more urgently stressed that point. In September 2011, the ATF issued a memo reminding federal firearms licensees there’s no exception to section 922(g). If they sell a gun to someone they know or reasonably suspect to be a marijuana user, even if that use is state-legal, the dealer is violating federal law. Gun purchasers must fill out a form from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in which they are legally compelled to truthfully answer: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana…or any other controlled substance?”
These sorts of categorical exclusions of certain types of Americans from their Second Amendment rights might not stand up to intelligent judicial scrutiny in a post-Heller world. Others have already tried and failed to get the Supreme Court to overturn such blanket restrictions of gun rights for illegal aliens and those convicted of domestic violence. But as Jacob Sullum has written, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals declared this month in Tyler v. Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Department that prohibiting gun ownership to everyone who’s ever been committed to a mental institution is overly broad, not narrowly tailored to a compelling state interest, and thus invalid. Whether other circuits or, eventually, the Supreme Court agree remains to be seen.
The Colorado activists behind the would-be ballot measure, Edgar Antillon and Isaac Chase, are making an end run around courts as they launch the Colorado Campaign for Equal Gun Rights. The measure would amend Colorado law so that state-legal use of marijuana would be no barrier to receiving a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Here is what I think Conservatives who favor Marijuana prohibition should keep in mind: Restricting guns won’t move us closer to a world in which Colorado reverts to Marijuana prohibition. Arguing for the extension of the recognition of Second Amendment rights does not mean you are speaking in favor of smoking pot. In the meantime, Colorado has been the center of some attempts at heavy-handed gun prohibition. This ballot measure will probably be the first time some voters will give serious thought to gun ownership as a natural human right.
Even if pot legalization is a bad thing, recruiting more loyalty to the Second Amendment is still a positive development.