Problem with Plan to Keep Guns Away from Drug Users

| by Reason Foundation

By Damon W. Root

National Review’s Robert VerBruggen raises some important civil liberties concerns about Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) plan to make it easier for the FBI to keep guns out of the hands of admitted drug users like Jared Loughner:

Chuck Schumer proposes that when prospective military recruits admit drug use in interviews — as Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner did — they should be reported to the FBI and entered into the database of people who are forbidden to buy guns.

As Schumer points out, it is already illegal to sell a gun to a drug user or addict; this policy, therefore, would make existing law more effective. However, there are several reasons to be concerned.

The first is that Americans have a Second Amendment right to own handguns, and this right cannot be denied without due process. Schumer’s policy, as outlined in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, contains little in the way of process: The military would report to the FBI, and the individual’s gun rights would be gone.

The second is that Schumer has offered no guidelines as to how long these individuals would stay in the database. Federal law doesn’t forbid selling guns to former drug users or addicts (so long as they are non-felons), or even to those convicted of misdemeanor drug offenses, and there’s no reason to deny rights to people for life on the grounds of their smoking pot at 17.