Hunter Biden’s recent indictment on three gun-related charges has raised eyebrows, particularly due to an unexpected critic: a federal appeals court led by conservative judges. This panel had previously deemed the federal gun law employed in Biden’s case as unconstitutional in a separate legal matter. Though not directly related, legal experts suggest this court’s ruling might play a role in Biden’s situation.
The controversy centers around a law that prohibits individuals classified as “unlawful users of or addicted to any controlled substance” from possessing firearms. The conservative-leaning three-judge panel from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals took issue with this law in a case involving Patrick Daniels, a Mississippi resident convicted and sentenced to prison for having a firearm while being a marijuana user.
In their ruling, the appeals court panel argued that the law was overly broad when applied to Daniels’ case and subsequently invalidated his conviction. It’s worth noting that this ruling applies to the states within the jurisdiction of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, namely Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana. This development occurred in the wake of a significant Supreme Court decision the previous year, which struck down a long-standing public carry law in New York and significantly expanded Second Amendment rights.
The appeals court panel cited the precedent set by the Supreme Court’s decision in N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen when rejecting Daniels’ conviction. They pointed out that this federal gun law was inconsistent with the historical tradition of firearm regulation in the United States. In the words of one of the judges, Smith, “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. Nor do more generalized traditions of disarming dangerous persons support this restriction on nonviolent drug users.”
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Turning back to Hunter Biden, who is the son of President Joe Biden, his indictment includes two charges alleging that he provided false information about his narcotics use when purchasing a Colt Cobra revolver. A third charge asserts that he unlawfully possessed the firearm. If convicted, two of these charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, while the third carries a maximum of 5 years behind bars.
Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy noted that Daniels’ case is not directly comparable to Biden’s. However, he suggested that the Justice Department might use the 5th Circuit’s ruling as a basis for offering Biden a deferred-prosecution arrangement. This proposed agreement would entail two years of probationary conditions, followed by a dismissal if those conditions are met.
In essence, while Hunter Biden’s indictment on gun-related charges has garnered significant attention, the recent ruling by the conservative-led federal appeals court has added a layer of complexity to the legal landscape. As the case unfolds, legal experts and observers will be closely watching for how these developments may influence its outcome.