Hunter Biden not protected from gun charges by Second Amendment, DOJ argues

Credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE

By Tom Hals

WILMINGTON, Delaware, Jan 16 (Reuters) - President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden posed a threat to public safety and cannot rely on his constitutional right to a firearm to avoid prosecution for federal gun charges, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a court filing on Tuesday.

Hunter Biden's legal team has misinterpreted U.S. Supreme Court guidance by arguing there is no historical precedent for preventing people with a history of substance abuse from possessing guns, the DOJ said.

"Anglo-American law has long recognized that the government may disarm those who, by their conduct or characteristics, present an increased risk to public safety if they possess firearms," the DOJ said in a court filing in Delaware.

Hunter Biden, 53, was indicted in September on charges of lying about his drug use when he bought a firearm in 2018, becoming the first child of a sitting president to be charged with a felony.

His attorney Abbe Lowell asked the federal judge to dismiss the case in December, arguing that the law used to charge Hunter Biden was likely unconstitutional based on a recent Supreme Court ruling on the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment, which protects the right to possess firearms.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2022 in a case known as New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen that gun restrictions must be consistent with the U.S. "historical tradition of firearm regulation." Legal experts said the ruling might protect the younger Biden from prosecution.

The DOJ said laws dating back to 1328 in England have restricted people who were considered dangerous from possessing weapons. It said language from those laws were applied in the United States at the time of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment.

The DOJ also rejected Hunter Biden's arguments that he was protected from prosecution by a plea agreement that provided the president's son "sweeping immunity," as his legal team has claimed.

The DOJ said the agreement required the signature of the chief U.S. probation officer for the District of Delaware, Margaret Bray. The DOJ said she never signed the agreement.

Hunter Biden's lawyers have accused U.S. special counsel David Weiss, who charged him, of reneging on the plea deal under political pressure from former President Donald Trump, who is seeking to defeat Joe Biden in this year's presidential election.

Lowell has argued that plea agreement's immunity extended to charges in a tax case in California, which the DOJ filed in December. Hunter Biden is accused of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes while spending millions of dollars on a lavish lifestyle. He pleaded not guilty to both the tax charges and gun charges.

Hunter Biden's legal troubles have been a lightning rod for Republicans, who have made investigations of the president's son a key part of their impeachment inquiry of the president, who is a Democrat.

The president's son, who has publicly discussed his substance abuse, has never held a position in the White House or on his father's recent presidential campaigns.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

((thomas.hals@thomsonreuters.com; +1 610 544 2712; Reuters Messaging: thomas.hals.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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