Sunday, 26 March, 2023

Banning guns for marijuana users unconstitutional: US judge

Banning guns for marijuana users unconstitutional: US judge

Popular News

OKLAHOMA CITY: A federal judge in Oklahoma has ruled that a federal law prohibiting people who use marijuana from owning firearms is unconstitutional, the latest challenge to firearms regulations after the US Supreme Court’s conservative majority set new standards for reviewing the nation’s gun laws, reports AP.

Lawyers for Jared Michael Harrison had argued that their client’s Second Amendment right to bear arms was being violated by a federal law that makes it illegal for “unlawful users or addicts of controlled substances”       to possess firearms. Harrison had been charged after being arrested by police in Lawton, Oklahoma, in May 2022 following a traffic stop. During a search of his car, police found a loaded revolver as well as marijuana. Harrison told police he had been on his way to work at a medical marijuana dispensary, but that he did not have a state-issued medical-marijuana card.

His lawyers had argued the portion of federal firearms law focused on drug users or addicts was not consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation, echoing what the US Supreme Court has ruled last year in a case known as New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. That case set new standards for interpreting the Second Amendment.

Federal prosecutors had argued that the portion of the law focused on drug users is “consistent with a longstanding historical tradition in America of disarming presumptively risky persons, namely, felons, the mentally ill, and the intoxicated.”

US District Judge Patrick Wyrick in Oklahoma City agreed with Harrison’s lawyers, ruling on Friday that federal prosecutors’ arguments that Harrison’s status as a marijuana user “justifies stripping him of his fundamental right to possess a firearm ... is not a constitutionally permissible means of disarming Harrison.”

“But the mere use of marijuana carries none of the characteristics that the Nation’s history and tradition of firearms regulation supports,” said Wyrick, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump.

In his ruling, Wyrick highlighted that under Oklahoma law, marijuana can be bought legally at more than 2,000 store fronts in the state.

Attorneys for Harrison, as well as the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma, which was prosecuting the case, did not immediately return emails seeking comment Sunday.

The ruling came a day after a three-judge panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Thursday ruled that the government can’t stop people who have domestic violence restraining orders against them from owning guns. The panel referenced the Bruen decision in its ruling. Two of the three judges on the panel are Trump appointees.

The Justice Department has said it will seek further review of the appeals court’s decision.

In September, a federal judge in Midland, Texas, ruled that a firearms law that bans those under felony indictment from buying guns is unconstitutional. In that case, US District Judge David Counts, also a Trump appointee, also echoed the Supreme Court’s language in the Bruen case, saying there was “little evidence” the ban related to being under indictment “aligns with this Nation’s historical tradition.”Emotions run high in Sweden’s biggest wolf hunt

VÄSTERÅS: Hunter Lars Bjork points to fresh tracks in the snow as he lumbers through a whited-out forest in central Sweden, where the biggest wolf hunt in modern times is drawing controversy, reports AFP.

We have quite a lot of wolves here, we’re actually sitting in a new wolf territory where we are now, Bjork, a predator expert at the Swedish Hunters’ Association, tells AFP as he settles into a small hunting lodge a few kilometres (miles) outside the town of Vasteras.

Long known as a champion of environmental protection, Sweden has paradoxically had a centuries-long opposition to wolves, considered a plague in the 1800s with the state paying out bounties for kills as late as the mid-20th century.

Still seen as a threat by farmers, the state now sanctions a limited cull of the animals every year.

This year, Sweden’s hunters are allowed to kill a record 75 wolves out of an estimated population of 460, according to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency’s latest inventory.

That is more than twice the number that hunters were allowed to kill last year, and the highest number since the culls began in 2010.

A total of 54 wolves had been killed as of Sunday.

Several local authorities have already called off the hunt in their regions, and the full quota isn’t expected to be reached by the February 15 deadline.

Nonetheless, the wolf hunt remains a highly divisive issue, both inside and outside the Nordic nation.

After Sweden’s wolves were hunted to the brink of extinction, the country declared them a protected species in the 1960s.

Wolves started reappearing in the late 1970s and 1980s, before populations started growing in the 1990s.

As their numbers surpassed 200, Sweden began allowing licensed hunts in 2010, issuing quotas for the number that can be killed during a set period.

The purpose is simply to limit the problems they cause out in more rural areas, 59-year-old Bjork explains.

For farmers, wolves are a menace as they occasionally attack livestock, primarily sheep.

They also pose a threat to hunting dogs, used to track and drive wild game such as deer and elk.

Sweden also allows yearly hunts of brown bears, wolverines and lynx — all considered endangered — in order to limit damage to livestock and reindeer.

Reindeer are integral to the indigenous Sami people’s way of life in the far north.

All hunts have detractors, but the wolf hunt has been particularly acrimonious since its inception.

Opponents of the hunt argue wolves are needed to protect biodiversity, playing an important role as predators.

It is astonishing that Sweden keeps on making these decisions, says Marie Stegard Lind, vice president of Jaktkritikerna, a group working to limit hunting.

The hunts continue in spite of the fact that the European Commission has been very clear about its opinion that these hunts are in fact illegal, she tells AFP at the group’s office in Stockholm.

In 2015, the European Commission warned that Sweden’s wolf hunt fell foul of the EU’s Habitats Directive, noting that the wolf population has not reached a level that guarantees the conservation of the species.

Other EU members with growing wolf populations have called on the Commission to update its Habitats Directive to better protect livestock farming.

Kjell-Arne Ottosson, a Swedish member of parliament for the Christian Democrats and vice president of the environment and agriculture committee, tells AFP that Sweden needs to stand its ground against the EU.

Wolves are a threat for those of us who live in rural areas. We have to manage that, we have to take this seriously, Ottoson says.

The only fatal wolf attack in modern times against a person in Sweden was in 2012, when a captive wolf attacked a keeper at the Kolmarden Wildlife Park.

But the issue often boils down to disputes over an acceptable size for the wolf population in terms of impact and risks, and ensuring there are enough wolves to limit inbreeding.

According to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, at least 300 are necessary to sustain a healthy population.

In a letter published by magazine Science in July 2022, a group of scientists argued the culls were a threat to a healthy Swedish wolf population.

They said the stocks that span Scandinavia and Finland should be kept above 500.

Conversely, Sweden’s parliament in 2021 voted to cap the population at 270 wolves.

The Swedish Hunters’ Association wants to go even further and lower the limit to 150 wolves, spread across the country.

Currently the animals are mostly found in the central and western parts of Sweden.

The wolf has a place here, absolutely, hunter Bjork says.

But not in the amounts we have today and not in the concentrations we have today.