New York Times Says Smoking Pot Is Virtually Legal but Still Should Stop You From Buying a Gun


Today The New York Times uses the Sandy Hook murders as an excuse to talk about "gaps" in the information on which background checks for gun purchases are based, although it concedes (in the fifth paragraph) that "the database flaws do not appear to have been a factor in the Newtown, Conn., school massacre." There are two reasons for that: 1) There was no background check on Adam Lanza, since he used his mother's guns, and 2) even if he had bought the guns himself, it looks like he would have passed a proper background check based on complete information, because he did not meet any of the criteria for rejection. But since Lanza did something horrible with a gun, we should talk about gun control, right? And now that we're talking about gun control…

This sort of bait and switch is familiar by now: After a mass shooting, gun controllers push the policies they've always supported as if they were a logical response to that particular example of senseless violence. When skeptics say it is hard to see how the proposed measures could have prevented that attack, gun controllers (if they are honest) say that's beside the point, because the real goal is not preventing the rare mass shootings that get all the attention but curtailing more common forms of gun violence. If so, the horrible event that supposedly makes new legislation urgently necessary does not in fact strengthen the case for that legislation one iota. If the proposed policy was a good idea before the attack, it remains a good idea; if it was a bad idea, the emotionally compelling but logically irrelevant deaths of innocents do not make it suddenly sensible. 

But OK, I'll bite. Let's talk about background checks. I would have no objection in principle to making the information on which they rely more complete if the criteria for preventing people from buying guns made sense. But several of them do not.

As I mentioned yesterday, federal law bars "an unlawful user of…any controlled substance" from owning a gun. Think about that for a minute. If you smoke pot or use a relative's Vicodin or Xanax, you have no right to keep and bear arms. Survey data indicate that nearly 40 million Americans have used "illicit drugs" in the last year, and the true number is probably higher (since people may be reluctant to admit illegal behavior even in a confidential survey). On the front page of today's New York Times, right next to the story about improving background checks by (among other things) gathering more data on "those who have tested positive for illegal drugs" (while applying for a federal job, for example), there is a story about how "marijuana is, as a practical matter, already legal in much of California." In that article (as Matt Welch noted earlier today), California's former Republican governor, who famously smoked a joint on camera in his bodybuilding days, says one reason he likes biking through Venice is the contact high he gets from all the outdoor pot smokers. The former mayor of San Francisco comments on all the "incredibly upstanding citizens," "leaders in our community," and "exceptional people" who smoke pot and are not "ashamed of it." Nevertheless, the Times notes, "people who use the drug recreationally, who said they would think nothing of offering a visitor a joint upon walking through the door, declined to be quoted by name, citing the risks to career and professional concerns." Maybe they're also worried about losing their constitutional rights.

Anyone convicted of a felony also is not allowed to buy a gun. While that might make sense for an armed robber or a murderer, it surely does not make sense for a nonviolent drug offender (a marijuana grower, say), or even for people convicted of real crimes that do not involve violence. If someone is convicted of check kiting, why should that mean he no longer has a right to armed self-defense? The logic escapes me. Likewise with someone who "is illegally or unlawfully in the United States" or "has been admitted to the United States under a nonimmigrant visa." Those facts alone do not make someone a special threat to public safety, and they certainly do not make him less vulnerable to criminals. And does a "dishonorable discharge" from the armed forces (another disqualifier) automatically mean you can't be trusted with a gun? It seems like it would depend on the circumstances.

So by all means, let's talk about background checks, but without mindlessly endorsing (or recklessly expanding) the existing prohibited categories, the folly of which may not become fully apparent until they are seriously enforced.

NEXT: Study Shows Marijuana Works as Pain Reliever for Some

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. how much weed does the NYT think I need to smoke for the 16th amendment to not apply?

    1. Let’s be honest. The NYT also believes you shouldn’t be able to have a gun if you don’t smoke pot. This is just more incrementalism.

  2. I seem to remember that back in the 80’s, gun control was focused on handguns. There were many who thought we should be able to have all the rifles we wanted, just no handguns. Though I don’t agree with that, I have to admit the logic was a bit more sound. A handgun is easier to conceal and therefore used in a vast majority of crimes.

    Just an observation.

    1. All gun tragedies now seem to happen in suburbia, while crime in the big city is way down.

      1. Those are just the ones you hear about.

    2. Jerry, I think we need to see some numbers. I live outside Chicago and their murder rate is always in the news lately.

      1. http://news.medill.northwester…..27de80.jpg

        But you don’t see a lot of killing sprees in the big cities.

      2. That’s because Chicago doesn’t have gun control.

    3. This is gun ownership policy in UKR, TOK, for precisely the reasons you suggest.

      Can’t say it works all that well, based on the news here.

      1. Gun violence and violence in general is pretty low here in CZ and the gun laws are some of the most liberal in Europe. CCW is legal.

  3. Up next red bull, coffee, tea…

  4. If someone is convicted of check kiting, why should that mean he no longer has a right to armed self-defense?

    Well, the advocatus diaboli in me would argue that keeping the right to bear arms should act as an incentive not to commit crime. I don’t necessarily agree, but I can see the logic. Likewise, someone who is here on a non-immigrant visa, by definition, hasn’t undergone an as in-depth background check as someone who has applied for an immigrant visa. Again, I don’t necessarily agree that they shouldn’t have the right to bear arms, (For example, how can someone on a tourist visa legally go on a hunting trip?) but I see why the government might see them as more suspect.

    1. I know you said you don’t agree with those reasons, but I still want to expand on this.

      There are a lot of bullshit punitive laws out there. If someone is arrested and goes to jail and has shitty representation, they should therefore lose all their God-given rights? I don’t believe in disenfranchising convicted felons, either, for the record.

      Just because someone has been convicted does not mean they should cease being human (and as such keep all of their natural rights). There is a reason a conviction can be considered in a job application, as that is a voluntary association between consenting parties. There is NO reason a conviction (and sentence served, I should add) should prevent someone from possessing a firearm.

      1. Exactly. If a convicted bank robber plans on robbing another bank, I’m pretty sure he’ll get guns whether or not he’s “allowed” to.

        All this shit does is fuck people who actually do go clean and straight after serving a sentence, and does nothing to deter those who are recidivist. What a surprise.

        1. But that can’t be right, since TEAM BLUE cares about felons and TEAM RED is the one that thinks they are subhuman.

          1. When TEAM BLUE “cares” about you, it means they think you are subhuman. Thus their “caring” for the poor, the homos, minorities, and poor little womenz like you, nicole. Setting them on an equal footing with TEAM RED. Of course.

      2. Well, the Constitution, in two places, affirms that due process of law can deprive one of their life, liberty, and property. The law, as written, allows this deprivation of liberty to be lifelong. This seems to me to be a case of overly broad legislation.

        I do believe that, in Libertopia, if one initiates force, the loss of one’s right to bear arms is an appropriate punishment, be it temporarily or permanently. However, as you rightly mention, we currently have many punitive laws that merely serve to disenfranchise certain segments of our society. I, too, would like to see a larger legislative/ideological safety net to protect their rights.

      3. Forget about felonies. Domestic violence misdemeanors will result in revocation of your firearm rights.

        My father was a probation officer and he dealt with this all the time. He would have guys who were offered a plea bargain that reduced the charges to a misdemeanor and they would accept not knowing how badly they were going to be screwed down the line.

        And if you think only real low lifes are convicted of domestic violence, remember that you can get rung up pretty easily for yelling at your ex-spouse if she is vindictive enough.

        1. And if you think only real low lifes are convicted of domestic violence

          The domestic part can mean anyone you share an abode with or a relative.

          Two brothers arguing in the yard could mean mandated charges, not up to the responding officers, or the participants. They’ll get charged with felonious domestic violence, plead down to a charge of misdemeanor domestic battery and pay a fine. They think that’s the end of it until they try to buy a gun years later and are denied.

          Not only that, but domestic violence shows up on all sorts of background checks, even very minor convictions.

    2. criminal activity is an indicator of willingness to do harm.

      violent crime is a stronger indicator of willingness to do harm with a gun than check fraud.

      I’d say a gun assault past is enough to prevent gun ownership. Not gun ‘ownership’ crime or non violent crime like fraud or drug use.

  5. The thing about our legal system is that once you’re convicted of a felony, you’re never really done paying for that crime.

  6. I invite John and LTC John to correct me if I’m wrong about this, but IIRC, the really nasty people that the military boots out for really nasty behavior don’t get a Dishonorable Discharge, but an Other than Honorable discharge. OTH is much worse than than Dishonorable.

    So, if an dishonorable is on the list, and a dishonorable is not, it’s akin to disqualifying people guilty of public urination from working in a school, while giving a pass to people convicted of child-rape.

    1. Ah crap. According to Wikipedia, I am wrong. OTH is the worst admin separation… Dishonorable comes from being court-martialed.

      If they don’t want to try your ass, they’ll just give an OTH and be done with it.

      1. It is also ungood to get the “BCD special” – Bad Conduct Discharge. Of course, most of the folks rung up on those often have problems other than the type of discharge they got, that would interfere with employment possibilities.

        As you mentioned, the admin separation is for when they have no desire to go through a full blown court martial.

    2. Tarran,

      Look here.

      The BCD is worse that the Other than Honorable.

    3. Twenty years ago, I worked with a guy who was caught selling speed in the Navy. IIRC, he told me he got an OTH discharge when I asked him if he got a DD.

  7. IT




  8. I’m pretty sure the inhaling oxygen should disqualify you from owning a firearm as far as the Times is concerned.

    1. For the Times, it’s really more about exhaling carbon dioxide than inhaling oxygen. Global warming and all.

  9. “This sort of bait and switch is familiar by now: After a mass shooting, gun controllers push the policies they’ve always supported as if they were a logical response to that particular example of senseless violence.”

    And the people doing this are some of the same people who criticized the Bush Administration for doing a bait and switch with 9/11 and Iraq, too.

    It’s all the same thing. As Rahm Emmanuel said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste”.

    We should condemn crisis management as a basis for policy making, but the reason presidents use it is because it’s so effective.…..iraq_x.htm

    Crisis management public policy always seems to be bad news for libertarians, too. When’s the last time a president thought more freedom was the solution to a crisis?

    1. When’s the last time a president thought more freedom was the solution to a crisis?


      1. Not too sure about that. Although I guess it depends on how you define crisis.

  10. Fill in the blank.

    Commenting while wandering around doing other stuff is hard.

  11. Keep up the good work, America!

    1. You’re the worst sockpuppet ever, Dieter.

      1. I’m struggling with his handle

        Is he a guy who foregoes healthy foods like Chocolate fudge?

        or one of those Germans who dance at the call of the first Austrian corporal to walk in the room?

        1. I’m going with the German in the black leotard.

        2. Let’s be honest: do you really even care?

          1. I do care… I want to direct my taunts effectively on a narrow target instead of blanketing several different areas with my taunts in the hopes that one will wound.

            My time is valuable, after all.

            1. Let’s be honest: no it isn’t.

            2. I figured it was Mary.

        3. Yes.

      2. I just thought he was happy that 3 State Troopers were injured.

      3. Now is ze time on H&R ven ze puppets dance!

        1. Needz moar scheisse.

          1. No, I think the sockpuppet has plenty already.

    2. From the comments to the linked article:

      Sean Coleman

      “leftest freaks”? You mean the majority? why don’t you take your guns and move to Somalia.

      Do people really say this? Was this guy trying to be ironic? Based on his avatar, he is a Canadian. I’m pretty sure there is no irony in Canada.

      1. They really do. Because they are really retarded.

  12. I give Sullum’s alt-text the nod over Welch’s alt-text.

    1. To be fair, Sullum had a better article to work with.

  13. The best part is, I don’t give the slightest fuck what the NYT thinks. And if they think I do, they’re out of their minds. I wonder what gun I will buy this weekend? I got myself a Kindle Paperwhite, I think it needs a gun to go with it.

  14. I will no longer debate gun control in person with anyone, unless they don a regimental German accent. Only then can I take them seriously.

    1. I’m adjusting my Chrome extension for Facebook to work for this strumunddrang-arama too.

      The unhinging has begun.

  15. After reading the AP’s article on the NRA briefing (linked on 24/7), I got pissed off and sent em an e-mail:
    I write with reference to this article:…

    In the lede of the article, you refer to the NRA as a ‘lobby group’. In paragraph 3 you refer to the CEO as the ‘chief lobbyist’ not his designated title of ‘CEO’.

    In contrast, consider the following:

    Greenpeace is a citizens group that engages in lobbying. AP does not refer to it as a lobby group. The Auto Unions are citizens groups that engage in huge amounts of lobbying, but the AP does not refer to them as lobby groups. The ACLU is a citizens group that lobbies congress constantly, but the AP does not refer to them as a lobby group. Same with the AARP, the AMA, The RIAA and countless other professional and citizens groups.

    A simple visit to the NRA website would show that the NRA engages in gun safety education, security consultation, local organizing of sport tournaments and meetings of gun rights supporters, hunting education and many other activities. An organization of 4 million people that spends most of its time in non-lobbying activities has earned the right to be called a citizens group.

    Your use of the lobbying tag is a blatant attempt to sway the news against the interests of the NRA and gun rights. The AP’s bias is disgraceful.

    1. Oh Jumbie, did you feel happy typing that out?

      Because the psychic satisfaction of typing that is the only benefit you will ever experience.

    2. The AP’s email address is and they promised to send the comments to the editor and contributor of any story.

      Of course, the sternly worded letter to the editor probably accomplishes nothing, but it made me feel better to get it out of system, so it was worth it.

      1. Of course, the sternly worded letter to the editor probably accomplishes nothing, but it made me feel better to get it out of system, so it was worth it.

        Meh, I wrote a sternly worded letter to the Dallas Morning news that doubled the number of people who were murdered by guns annually in a news story. I linked them to the CDC statistical page which showed only half the number they cited. I’m sure it went nowhere.

    3. I guess you didn’t get the memo that it’s really the “National Rifle [Sales] Organization,” not to mention EVIL AND CHILD-HATING.

      1. Meant “Association,” obvs. Have exposed myself to a lot of retardation-waves this morning.

        1. “Must… disable… derpgun. Got… to… try…”

          1. That was for nicole’s “retardation-waves”. I imagined a large cannon-like gun that emitted waves totally destroying logical processes, and Captain Nikki slowly crawling towards it as the picture faded going into the commercial.

            1. That’s not inaccurate.

    4. Armed guards in every school. Another step closer to utopia.

      1. Actually, armed pupils who take classes in riflemanship in every school would be an even closer step to Libertopia.

        1. a new way to collect lunch money!

          1. A new way to protect oneself against bullying!

            See, I can play this game all day, jackoff.

            1. And the judges score this round, on the mandatory 8 point system, to Heroic Mulatto… 10-8, 10-8 and 10-8.

      2. You really want to take that worst sockpuppet crown from mustard, don’t you.

    5. Meanwhile, at the AP’s head offices….

      *Public Relations Officer prints up Jumbie’s e-mail just so he/she could snicker, crumple it up and then throw it over his/her shoulder.*

  16. forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown

    in my opinion the short if it is that as long as statists continue to stubbornly pretend that rights are privileges, then over time people will come to assume that. increasingly i hear people say things like they have a ‘right’ to healthcare… but then shrug when asked about police randomly checking IDs. “that’s how they do their job!”

  17. Not sure if this has been posted here, or not, I’ve been pretty busy with work. But just in case, here is some good stuff from, out of all places, CNN.

    From CNN

    1. The article was fine.

      The fact that Bennet’s hypocritical, grumpy, pork face was at the top off the thing made me hold my nose the whole way through.

      1. Yup. ‘You use drugs? Go to prison, and then to hell! You gamble? Oh, that’s okay, because I like to do that!’

        1. Well, that’s the entire thing with Libs. They only want to ban stuff that they don’t like. Or in the case of the elite political class, ban stuff ‘for the peasants.’, not for themselves.

          This is why I see the NRA guys rant about video games as just a sort of deflection. Everyone knows that a ban on violent games or movies is impossible. As many libs like that stuff as the rest of us, so that is a non-starter, not going to go anywhere.

          1. Hyperion| 12.21.12 @ 1:59PM |#

            Well, that’s the entire thing with Libs. They only want to ban stuff that they don’t like.

            You forgot the part about mandating everything else.

            1. You forgot the part about mandating everything else

              But I reiterate, they only want to ‘mandate’ things for other people, not for themselves. For instance, they want everyone elses taxes raised, and for everyone else to pay for their health insurance. As soon as they are the ones paying, they will be against those things.

              1. As soon as they are the ones paying, they will be against those things.

                So…. you’re calling that Obama unilaterally extends the Bush tax cuts by the end of the year? Because as of right now, forget “the rich” – everyone’s cumulative taxes are going up ~5-6% Class warfare FTW!!

  18. There is certainly great discrimination when it comes to the drug laws but it doesn’t end there.
    The drug war is the single greatest cause of violence in the US and all the America’s today.
    California significantly decriminalized in 2010.
    In 2011 the murder rate had dropped by 26%.
    Liberalizing drug laws may have had nothing to do with the drop as prohibitionists might claim but it did not hurt.
    Prohibition supporters long told us violence and crime would increase with freely available drugs but it did not, the opposite happened.
    There has been a drop in crime generally in the US at the same time as the appearance and growth of the medical marijuana industry.
    Ending prohibition altogether will bring crime down significantly.
    With a lot less fear and hysteria around it will be a much simpler task to talk about gun control.
    As long as the drug war rages people have real fears and real needs to protect themselves.
    Amazingly we seem to be on the verge of real reform.
    It is for the first time realistic to raise the issue of the failed drug war with the expectation that we will actually be able to achieve real reform.
    This is the time to put pressure on all politicians, write to the media and start petitions to get ballot initiatives in the next election.
    Legalize! Apologize! Compensate!

  19. Also! I’m starting up kad?k?y kombi servisi
    a new forum dedicated to my fellows stoners. Come on webmaster forumlar?
    over and join the high conversations! We’re quite new, but VERY welcoming.

  20. exactly. there will be a point kombi servisi of critical mass, and that will prompt the feds. they will be on the losing side of history FOR A WHILE. beylikd?z? kombi servisi
    it always happens that way. but eventually, the rescheduling will commence. in some way that allows them to think they are saving face.

  21. and in regards to legalized MJ, vaillant kombi servisi i am seeing little to no negative comments amongst the cops. mostly support, and a few people are like “i think this is vaillant kombi servisi a dumb decision, but whatever. i’ve got better things to do with my time than MJ enforcement”.

  22. I think it’s time vestel klima servisi we start legalizing Marijuana everywhere. Stop living in demird?k?m kombi servisi fear and start thinking about how great the future will be! LEGALIZE IT!

  23. If you live in a state where Marijuana isn’t legal yet and still want the same type of highs,klima servisi I suggest checking out It has amazingly detailed legal highs reviews and where to get them without getting ripped off!
    Also! I’m starting up ar?elik klima servisi a new forum dedicated to my fellows stoners. Come on over and join the high conversations! We’re quite new, but VERY welcoming.

  24. All the marijuana activist groups should challenge SAM to a debate

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.