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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

A targeted prosecution

When it comes to unfair targeting, it’s Hunter Biden who has the legitimate beef


The recent conviction of Hunter Biden for lying on a federal instant background check form for a gun purchase in 2018 prompted the Timberjay to research the laws surrounding drug use and guns in the United States. The results were eye-opening and suggest that similar violations of federal laws are widespread, but rarely prosecuted.
According to the 1968 federal Gun Control Act, it is illegal to purchase, transport, or even possess a firearm if you are a user of illegal drugs, specifically including marijuana.
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the definition of an illegal drug user is anyone who has used drugs, including marijuana, within the last 12 months. Based on a recent federal study, about 5.6 percent of Americans reported using marijuana daily or nearly daily, which would compute to about 303,000 Minnesotans. Many more would likely be considered occasional users, who would also be prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law.
Since Minnesota has legalized the use of marijuana, it has created a conflict between what is legal under state law and what is legal federally.
Keep in mind, the gun laws at issue here are federal, and the federal government has not taken steps to allow marijuana use under its statutes although the Biden administration has proposed to remove it from the list of Schedule I drugs. By itself, that step would not alter the language of the Gun Control Act, nor the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which created the instant background check and the question on it relating to illegal drug use.
Any user of marijuana in Minnesota who seeks to purchase a firearm and checks “no” on the box related to illegal drug use, would be committing the same crime as Hunter Biden and could be prosecuted by federal authorities.
We say “could be,” because the reality is virtually no one is ever prosecuted solely for lying on this form— Hunter Biden being a very notable exception.
Indeed, if anyone could make a claim that he is being subjected to unfair or politically driven prosecution, it is Hunter Biden, since he is currently being prosecuted in cases which are almost never filed against individuals in similar circumstances. It was the Trump Justice Department that appointed Republican David Weiss to serve as a “special attorney” to investigate and prosecute the younger Biden in 2018. That, in itself, was virtually unprecedented since such special prosecutor-like investigations are typically reserved for those in government, not their children.
Weiss’s team of investigators spent years trying to find evidence of things like money laundering or bribery before giving up due to a lack of evidence. In the end, they initially resorted to a plea bargain on his failure to pay federal taxes in a timely manner, and the conditioned dismissal of the background check charge were he to remain drug-free, which would have been a reasonable end result.
That deal soon broke down before a judge, however, after it became clear that Weiss had not revealed to Biden’s attorneys that the plea would not end their multi-year probe into Biden.
The response of the Biden family, of course, has been the polar opposite of Trump’s response to his criminal conviction for falsifying business records. While offering their support to their son, the Bidens have said they respect the recent guilty verdict in the gun case and President Biden has announced that he will not issue a pardon. Trump, meanwhile, has endlessly claimed victimhood, even suggesting he’s a “political prisoner,” although he remains free. Contrary to his claims, Trump was hardly singled out in his New York criminal case. According to the New York Law Journal, the state of New York has prosecuted 9,974 cases of falsifying business records since 2015, or about 1,225 such cases every year. Trump, far from being singled out, had plenty of company.
By contrast, it’s easy to argue that Hunter Biden was targeted for harsh prosecution. The Internal Revenue Service rarely prosecutes anyone for tax evasion, since the threat of prosecution is usually sufficient to gain compliance without having to press charges. Hunter Biden’s back taxes and fines were paid off in full in 2020. Good luck finding a case where someone is prosecuted for tax evasion when their taxes and fines were paid in full four years earlier.
Of course, Weiss faced enormous political pressure from Republicans in Congress, who had exploded in anger over the plea deal, which would have resolved a politically embarrassing episode for the Biden family ahead of the 2024 election. Despite the obvious targeting of Hunter Biden by the Republican prosecutor and congressional Republicans, the Biden family has not vilified the process because they plainly recognize the damage such attacks inflict on our system.
If only others chose their words so carefully.