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The degree of fit between 18 U.S.C.S. § 922(d)(3), 27 C.F.R. § 478.11, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives' Open Letter to all Federal Firearms Licensees dated Sept. 21, 2011 and the aim of preventing gun violence is reasonable, which is sufficient to survive intermediate scrutiny under the Second Amendment. The connection between these laws and that aim requires only one additional logical step: individuals who firearms dealers have reasonable cause to believe are illegal drug users are more likely actually to be illegal drug users (who, in turn, are more likely to be involved with violent crimes). With respect to marijuana registry cards, there may be some small population of individuals who—although obtaining a marijuana registry card for medicinal purposes—instead hold marijuana registry cards only for expressive purposes. But it is eminently reasonable for federal regulators to assume that a registry cardholder is much more likely to be a marijuana user than an individual who does not hold a registry card.
Plaintiff-Appellant S. Rowan Wilson acquired a Nevada medical marijuana registry card. To acquire a registry card, an applicant must provide documentation from an attending physician affirming that the applicant has a chronic or debilitating medical condition, that the medical use of marijuana may mitigate the symptoms of the condition, and that the physician has explained to the applicant the risks and benefits of the medical use of marijuana. Plaintiff then sought to purchase a firearm, but the firearms dealer knew that plaintiff had a registry card. Consistent with 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(3), 27 C.F.R. § 478.11 and an Open Letter issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives ("ATF"), the dealer refused to sell Wilson a firearm because of her registry card. Plaintiff sued, challenging the federal statutes, regulations, and guidance that prevented her from buying a gun. The district court dismissed plaintiff’s complaint. Plaintiff challenged the decision.
Should the challenged law and regulations be declared void for being violative of the rights guaranteed under the Constitution?
The Court held that 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(3), 27 C.F.R. § 478.11, and the Open Letter issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to federal firearms licensees, which prevented plaintiff from purchasing a firearm, directly burdened plaintiff's core Second Amendment right to possess a firearm. Applying intermediate scrutiny, the Court nevertheless held that the fit between the challenged provisions and the Government's substantial interest of violence prevention was reasonable, and therefore the district court did not err by dismissing the Second Amendment claim. Moreover, the Court held that the challenged laws and Open Letter did not violate the First Amendment. According to the Court, any burden the Government's anti-marijuana and anti-gun-violence efforts placed on plaintiff's expressive conduct was incidental, and that the Open Letter survived intermediate scrutiny. The challenged laws and Open Letter also did not violate plaintiff's procedural due process rights protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment nor violated the Equal Protection Clause as incorporated into the Fifth Amendment. Plaintiff did not have a constitutionally protected liberty interest in simultaneously holding a registry card and purchasing a firearm, nor was she a part of suspect or quasi-suspect class.