Today's Discussion Topic: Form 4473 and MarijuanaSubmitted by skrapmetal at 2017-01-19 13:08:03 EST
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The purpose of this piece is not to promote my personal, or indeed any particular, position on either firearms or marijuana. It is merely a topic for your consideration and a place, in the comments below, for y'all to opine should you care to do so.
ATF Form 4473 is called the "Firearms Transaction Record" form. In Florida, where I live, it is the one you are required to fill out when purchasing a firearm (or anything classified as such) from a dealer. Other States require it for any firearms transfer including private sale. It is a Federal form, part of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE, commonly called "The ATF") records. It is the form used to communicate the information from the dealer to the BATFE for the required background check, and if that check is not approved, the firearms transaction is also not approved. A picture of Page 1 of the current (as of 1/19/2017) form is attached below. That is the page that the transferee fills out. A transferee signature is required on Page 2 which certifies that all the information on Page 1 is true, correct, and complete.
In addition to a number of items of information, there is Question 11e. It reads, "Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana, or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?" and is followed by this text (in bold type on the Form) "Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medical or recreational purposes in the state in which you reside."
Several States, now including Florida, have passed laws and/or Constitutional Amendments that allow marijuana use for medicinal and/or recreational purposes. But anyone who uses marijuana, recreationally or for medical purposes with a prescription, will still be in violation of Federal marijuana laws. Thus a medical marijuana user who wishes to purchase a firearm legally where a transfer requires a Form 4473 must then either a) truthfully check the "Yes" box in response to Question 11e (and thereby admit on Record being in violation of Federal law regarding marijuana), or b) untruthfully check the "No" box in response to Question 11e (and thereby provide false information on the Form, violating Federal law regarding firearms transfer).
It remains to be seen how this will be dealt with in the courts regarding Question 11e and marijuana. Is the requirement to check "Yes" or "No" in response to that Question not also a requirement to either waive one's 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination with a "Yes" answer, or with a "No" answer is it not entrapping one into breaking a law in order to comply with other laws?
There are other options, of course. One may choose to not use marijuana, and thus be able to answer truthfully "Yes" to Question 11e. One may opt out of buying a firearm, so Question 11e (and all the others) will not be posed. Or, in States like Florida that allow private sale of firearms without a background check, the marijuana user can simply and legally purchase their firearm from a private citizen rather than from a dealer. No Form 4472 required, so no need to answer Question 11e either way.
Is this a problem? If so, then what, if anything, should be done to address it? Where I live, private sale of firearms is legal. That said, I don't know anyone who has sold a firearm in a private sale who didn't have as conditions of the sale a look at the buyer's Driver License and Concealed Weapon Permit in order to verify that they match in name and address (and to ensure that the buyer is over 21 if the sale is of a handgun as per Florida law). This ensures that the buyer is *probably* legal to own the firearm. Better than nothing, obviously, but certainly not required in Florida. Likewise, when buying in a private sale, most people I know will ask to see the seller's ID and CWP. This helps ensure the seller isn't selling a firearm they either don't own or have a pressing need to get rid of. And of course I have no doubt that lots of private sales of firearms occur with nothing more than an exchange of money or trade goods for hardware.
The issue I see rising is that the number of private sales of firearms will increase as medical and recreational marijuana use becomes more accepted in the States but remains a Federal crime. Many people won't want to make the choice between legal purchase of a firearm and their use of marijuana, and the only way to avoid the conflict while accomplishing both goals is to buy the firearm through private sale.
I know there's a lot more to this than what I've touched on here today, such as how illegal marijuana distribution is often closely related to illegal firearms and whether legalizing marijuana will reduce the traffic in illegal weapons, but I have limited time and you have limited attention. So, if you like, discuss.