Opinion: If you love the Second Amendment like me, you know how important Hunter Biden’s appeal is

Editor’s Note: Shermichael Singleton is a CNN political commentator, host of a nationally syndicated radio show on SiriusXM and principal of Global Impact Strategies, a political consulting firm. He has worked on three Republican presidential campaigns. He co-owns GunsOut, a firearms production company whose clients include gun manufacturers and advocacy groups (including Gun Owners of America). The views expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.

I vividly remember the first time I shot a firearm with my brother and cousins; it was an old Winchester rifle that belonged to my grandfather. We were out in the Louisiana country, surrounded by the smell of wet moss and the infamous magnolias. As the sunlight hit the grass and birds began to chirp, you could smell what my grandfather called morning air.

Shermichael Singleton - Courtesy Shermichael Singleton
Shermichael Singleton - Courtesy Shermichael Singleton

We were all very young at the time, and I was no older than 7 or 8 years old. However, my grandfather had deemed it time, as his grandfather had done with him, for the boys to understand the importance of hunting, a deeply held southern tradition that affirmed the right to keep and bear arms.

I remember my grandfather telling us how, in his day, a firearm was the only way a Black man could protect himself and his family against racists who wanted to teach Blacks a lesson. He would say, “When they realized we had guns and knew how to use them too, they wouldn’t bother us.”

That experience with my grandfather never left me, and it was then that I realized firearms, regardless of their caliber or capacity, are not just “weapons of war,” as President Joe Biden stated about “assault weapons” (semi-automatic rifles) in his Tuesday speech to Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund’s annual conference in Washington, DC. It was also a means to protect and equalize the playing field against any racist or bigot who dared think they had the power and right to trample the rights and liberties of anyone they believed they were superior to.

Once I became an adult, I ventured into competitive shooting, a sport I truly love and enjoy, and I continue to hunt with my close friends, keeping the practices and traditions my grandfather taught me alive. I now co-own a firearms production company that produces top-tier educational and entertaining content focusing on firearms operations, ownership and fostering a deeper understanding of gun culture. My business partner John and I have had the opportunity to work with some of the largest firearms manufacturers and gun rights advocacy groups in the country.

The flourishing firearms community has been including more women and people of color who are believed to be the fastest-growing groups of gun owners in the United States. It is with this passion, experience and knowledge of this community, the Second Amendment and firearms that I am opposed to Tuesday’s verdict against Hunter Biden, which I believe is a violation of the Second Amendment.

I am vehemently opposed to President Biden’s continued encroachment on the Second Amendment and the actions of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) under his administration. I am an advocate for the Second Amendment and its importance for all Americans — including the president’s son.

Biden spoke to the Everytown for Gun Safety conference shortly after his son Hunter was found guilty of three charges in a federal firearms case, effectively becoming a felon, and the image couldn’t be starker. While President Biden spoke about enhancing federal background checks on prospective gun buyers, two of Hunter’s felony convictions were connected to lying about his drug use on the ATF’s Form 4473, which a federally licensed firearms seller uses to run a background check on a buyer. This is ironic, to say the least.

Nevertheless, Hunter Biden should have never had to answer the drug use question on that form in the first place. The US Supreme Court must provide guidance regarding his case, which centers around a gun restriction that I believe is unconstitutional.

A similar case was overturned in 2023 by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals. The panel reversed the conviction of Patrick Darnell Daniels, Jr., who was sentenced to four years in prison for a firearm-related offense. After pulling Daniels over for a traffic violation, the police officer discovered two marijuana butts and two loaded firearms in the vehicle. While Daniels’ drug of choice (marijuana) differs from that of Hunter Biden (who abused crack cocaine), the law targeted them for the same reason: They possessed a firearm while “recently” being “an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.”

In overturning Daniels’ conviction, the court wrote: “Throughout American history, laws have regulated the combination of guns and intoxicating substances. But at no point in the 18th or 19th century did the government disarm individuals who used drugs or alcohol at one time from possessing guns at another. A few states banned carrying a weapon while actively under the influence, but those statutes did not emerge until well after the Civil War.”

The 5th Circuit found that historical precedent supporting some limits on whether an intoxicated person can carry a weapon “does not justify disarming a sober citizen based exclusively on his past drug usage.” And traditions of disarming dangerous persons don’t “support this restriction on nonviolent drug users,” the court added.

This was reflected in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen (2022), which challenged restrictions on obtaining concealed carry permits. In a 6-3 ruling in favor of gun rights, conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that “to justify a firearm regulation the government must demonstrate that the regulation is consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

The failure of the federal government to meet that burden in Daniels’ case led to the 5th Circuit reversing his conviction, and I strongly believe that if the Bruen decision is followed, the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals will do the same when Hunter Biden appeals.

I think about how many of men of color have had similar experiences to Daniels: pulled over for a simple traffic violation, got arrested for having a controlled substance in their possession and ultimately were charged with a felony after the discovery of a firearm. Many of those men are either imprisoned or have to live their lives as a felon, unable to find work or vote, as they are forced to struggle with barriers to being productive members of society.

The irony is that it may be Hunter Biden’s case that goes to the Supreme Court and gives the court a say on what I fervently believe is an unconstitutional violation of the Second Amendment — and a ruling on gun rights for those who have used drugs could provide a pathway for those men to have their cases reviewed and statuses changed.

Despite President Biden’s continued weaponization of the Second Amendment and infringement upon this uniquely American right, he may ultimately have the Second Amendment to thank — at least in this case — if it reverses his son’s status as a convicted felon.

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