This stance was outlined in a brief submitted to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday.
The DOJ's brief contends that the ban aligns with the country's historical tradition of firearm regulation. It cites past instances where individuals were disarmed due to alcohol intoxication, perceived danger, or mental illness. The department criticized the Fifth Circuit for its previous ruling in a separate case, which suggested that historical precedent only supports disarming individuals under immediate impairment.
The DOJ's brief cites a specific case involving Erik Matthew Harris, a recreational marijuana user who allegedly misplaced a firearm on the same night he consumed marijuana and alcohol. The brief argues, "Users are unlikely to put their guns away before using drugs and retrieve them only after regaining lucidity." It further questions the feasibility of a system that would only allow for firearm confiscation during periods of intoxication.
Harris was charged under a statute prohibiting firearm possession for anyone classified as "an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance," as per court documents. In his defense, Harris argued that there is no scientific consensus linking habitual or regular adult marijuana use to conditions such as schizophrenia or other cognitive impairments.
Harris' brief further contends that there was no historical tradition at the time of the nation's founding of disarming individuals based on mental illness, cognitive impairments, or potential development of such conditions due to their behaviors.
The court had requested the parties to consider whether "habitual ingestion of regulated substances, including marijuana, is analogous to or triggers conditions analogous to schizophrenia or other mental illnesses or cognitive impairments," as stated in the briefs.
In its August ruling, the Fifth Circuit majority noted that while the Founding Fathers institutionalized the mentally ill and disarmed them, they permitted alcoholics to possess firearms when sober.