Sunday, September 11, 2016

259.2 - Clown Award: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Clown Award: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

However, that Good News leads us to, with a big sigh, one of our regular features, the Clown Award, given as always for meritorious stupidity.

Now, there is often a great deal of stupidity involved when it comes to guns, most all of it revolving around one variation or another of "my cold dead fingers" or "they're coming to take my guns away, ha ha," done in the voice of Napoleon XIV. And if you don't get that latter reference, ask your parents. They will.

But in this case the clowning is judicial and so this week's winner of the Big Red Nose is the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

You see, on August 31 the court ruled that Rowan Wilson, a woman living in rural Nevada, was properly and correctly denied the ability to purchase a gun because she is an "unlawful user of a controlled substance." And what is that "controlled substance" of which she is an "unlawful user?"

Medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana, which is legal in Nevada.

But the feds don't care about that because they continue to refuse to recognize the usefulness or even the fact of medical marijuana, anywhere, any time, anyhow. So the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives - the ATF - had recently sent a letter to gun shop owners which said anyone who uses marijuana as a medicine, even if it is legal there, is an "unlawful user of a controlled substance" and is therefore forbidden to buy or possess guns under federal law.

Wilson sued, she lost in lower court, and now the Ninth Circuit court has upheld that lower court decision.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
Why? How? The circuit court admitted that this does, in the court's words, "directly burden [Wilson's] core Second Amendment right to possess a firearm," but insisted that the burden is not "severe" enough to override the law because, well, and the court actually argued this, she could have bought the gun before registering as a medical marijuana patient - which is inane on its face because as an "unlawful user of a controlled substance" she is also barred from possessing a gun - or that she could now just give up her medical marijuana card. And if it takes you more than a second to see what's wrong with that argument then you are as big of a clown as the court is.

That's dumb enough, but wait. The court could have stopped there, it could have said that it is bound by federal law and federal law says she can't buy a gun and we're not prepared to override the law because we don't think the burden on her rights is severe enough. The arguments it made for that are stupid, but even so the court could have stopped there.

But it didn't stop there. Instead, it made it worse. It found that there was a question remaining of whether a rule preventing people like Wilson from buying guns is a reasonable way of accomplishing the goal of reducing gun violence.

This is where it really goes off the rails. To argue that the answer to that question is yes, that denying medical marijuana patients the option of possessing a gun helps to accomplish the goal of reducing gun violence, the court relied on antiquated arguments and long-disproved claims to asset that there is, quoting, "a strong link between drug use and violence."

The government claimed exactly that in its briefs but did it without providing any evidence or examples. However, the court ruled that "studies and surveys relied on in similar cases suggest a significant link between drug use, including marijuana use, and violence." And just in case you don't realize what just happened, the government made an unsubstantiated claim about drugs and the court set about proving it for them.

What's more, not only does the court throw all "drugs" into one pile, as if LSD, marijuana, methamphetamines, barbiturates, and heroin - or, to use terms from my youth, acid, grass, speed, downers, and smack - were all the same thing with the same effects, it went out of its way to specify that yes, it did mean that marijuana specifically does lead  to "irrational or unpredictable behavior" and is connected to violence.

This is so far removed from the current state of pharmacological knowledge - which in fact has repeatedly shown that marijuana is more likely to reduce violent crime than to increase it - so far removed from current knowledge as to be an embarrassment to the law and the court.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a number of landmark rulings in the past. But on this occasion the judges have refused to challenge - indeed, it more appears that they have actively and outright bought into - the miserable failure of the war on drugs and the fantasies that drive it, at least with regard to marijuana. And in so doing they have turned themselves into clowns.

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