In our last post, we provided a bit of a history lesson concerning the landmark Gun Control Act of 1968, which outlaws any "unlawful user and/or an addict of any controlled substance" from purchasing a firearm.
Specifically, we discussed how the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the law enforcement agency tasked with carrying out the law, has adopted a particularly draconian stance toward marijuana users, outlawing any sale of guns and ammunition to users of this Schedule I drug owing to the risk of "irrational and unpredictable behavior."
We also discussed how despite the recent movements to legalize marijuana at the state level for medicinal and/or recreational purposes, and the federal government's largely laissez faire approach to this major shifts in drug policy, the ATF is actually doubling down on this stance, emboldened by a favorable decision out of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this summer.
As to what exactly the ATF has done in this regard, it introduced language in bold type to Form 4473, the Firearms Transaction Record that must be filled out and filed whenever a person purchases a firearm from the holder of a federal firearms license (i.e., a gun shop, outdoor superstore, etc.) last month.
Specifically, the following language was appended to question 11E, which otherwise asks if the prospective purchaser uses or is otherwise addicted to marijuana or another controlled substance: "The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”
While this might seem like nothing more than the ATF re-articulating a stance that is still technically embraced by the federal government, it's actually an incredibly significant action that could have dramatic consequences for marijuana users who elect to be less than forthcoming on Form 4473 -- regardless of whether they live in a state that has taken a progressive approach to marijuana.
Indeed, lying on a federal gun purchase form is classified as a felony under federal law that is punishable by as many as five years in prison.
It's worth noting that Form 4473 is updated every two years and that the timing of this recent revision is not attributable to any directive issued by the Trump administration.
It will be interesting to see if this largely underreported action by the ATF results in more litigation going forward. Stay tuned for updates.
In the meantime, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible if you are under investigation or have been placed under arrest for any sort of federal crime relating to drugs or firearms, as the stakes are simply too high.