Does the ATF gun sales ban that prohibits medical marijuana users from purchasing a firearm violate their Second Amendment rights?

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Answered by: James, An Expert in the Matters and Controversies Category
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has declared war on the Second Amendment as it pertains to card-carrying medical marijuana users, stating in a recent letter to all U.S. firearms merchants that it is illegal to sell firearms to the card holders.

The announcement has medical marijuana users up in arms, so to speak, but it remains to be seen whether their complaints will be heard in the halls of justice. A long-standing problem with settling legal issues that can and do arise since the wave of state-level marijuana legalization began is that federal law will always trump state law if there is in fact a law in conflict - as there is with marijuana legalization.

States may legalize marijuana and establish protections for its citizens with regard to the law at the state level, but there are no protections at the federal level, and the U.S. Department of Justice can direct U.S. State Attorneys to take action. This can cause a great deal of confusion when crafting (and abiding by) the new laws, especially when it comes to the ATF gun sales ban.

The letter sent to merchants provided no real guidance on enforcement or punishment, which is a recurring problem when the federal government attempts to short circuit states' efforts to regulate marijuana sales. It provided no details as to whether prospective firearms purchasers have to disclose they are card holders, or even if merchants are required to ask their customers to disclose this information.

News of the ATF gun sales ban is also causing concern among current gun owners. The letter did not address the rights of people who already have guns, which suggests the letter-writing campaign is designed more as a way to dissuade individuals from seeking out medical marijuana by forcing them to consider giving up their Second Amendment rights.

The ATF defends its actions by noting that it is already illegal to sell firearms to people who use illegal drugs as defined by the federal government, which includes medical marijuana users. This, however, raises the need to define "use," which the AFT fails to do. It is possible to have a "lifetime" medical marijuana prescription, but not use it. It is also possible that people who do have a card used marijuana for a period of time and then stopped. In other words, a medical marijuana card holder is not always a drug user.

Many merchants have also expressed their distaste over the ATF saber rattling. Their concerns are not so much that they may lose sales, which is a possibility, but that the ATF is essentially asking them to police medical marijuana users. That's a position many gun sellers don't care to have, but since the ATF made it clear they were not ready to commit resources to enforce the edict, the burden will fall to the merchant.

So, while the letter does not outline an outright violation of Second Amendment rights due to preexisting enforceable laws pertaining to gun-toting drug users, the law is highly presumptuous when it comes to medical marijuana card holders. The problem is one of correlation being mistaken for causation, which happens often in government regulation. A card holder is not a drug user, and a drug user is not necessarily more of a threat than anyone else with a gun.

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