I’ve seen “The NRA is RACIST!!!” claimed over and over again, often using the death of Philando Castile as if it is “proof” of this claim. The people making this argument do so without knowledge of gun control laws or the full facts behind this case.
The Philando Castile shooting – Background:
On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was shot and killed by Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer, after being pulled over in Falcon Heights, a suburb of Saint Paul. Castile was in a car with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter when he was pulled over by Yanez and another officer.
The shooting achieved a high profile from a live-streamed video on Facebook made by Diamond Reynolds in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. It shows her interacting with the armed officer as a mortally injured Castile lies slumped over, moaning slightly and his left arm and side bloody. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office said he had sustained multiple gunshot wounds and reported that Castile died at 9:37 p.m. CDT in the emergency room of the Hennepin County Medical Center, about 20 minutes after being shot.
Reynold’s video mentioned repeatedly that Castile had a concealed carry permit. This was seized upon by various parties, who immediately declared that the NRA was racist for not defending Castile.
The NRA issued the following statement, 2 days after the shooting.
Shortly after this, other facebook videos from Castile’s girlfriend were unearthed, including one filmed days before the shooting, showing both of them smoking marijuana while riding in his car.
Further news reports revealed that the police officer responsible for the shooting smelled marijuana in the vehicle when he approached, and this Castile’s marijuana use was confirmed in later toxicology reports showing that he had high THC levels in his blood when he was killed.
As soon as marijuana usage was revealed, this shooting ceased to be “lawful concealed carrier shot by cop during traffic stop.”
Instead, Castile’s marijuana usage made him a “prohibited person” under the 1968 Gun Control Act:
The Gun Control Act (GCA), codified at 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), makes it unlawful for certain categories of persons to ship, transport, receive, or possess firearms or ammunition, to include any person:
- convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
- who is a fugitive from justice;
- who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act, codified at 21 U.S.C. § 802);
- who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution;
- who is an illegal alien;
- who has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
- who has renounced his or her United States citizenship;
- who is subject to a court order restraining the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of the intimate partner; or
- who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
This bears repeating: The 1968 Gun Control Act makes it unlawful for certain categories of persons to possess firearms; one of those categories is unlawful users of controlled substances. Marijuana is a Schedule I narcotic.
Because it is restricted at a federal level, state laws regarding medical marijuana use do not matter – using it is still unlawful under the Controlled Substances Act.
[A]ny person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.
If Castile was prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms, his CCW was irrelevant.
He was not a law abiding gun owner. He was not legally exercising his Second Amendment Rights. His was no longer legally carrying a firearm, but was illegally carrying while under the influence of a narcotic. He was breaking Federal law, and as soon as this information came out, the NRA was no longer able to defend him or be outraged at his death.
The Controlled Substances Act draws no distinction between Schedule I narcotics; heroin, LSD, ecstasy, methaqualone, and peyote are all considered at the same level and if the NRA defended the unlawful user of one drug, they’d effectively be arguing for the users of any other Schedule I narcotic to also be allowed to possess firearms.
Marijuana needs to be rescheduled as soon as possible, but this has nothing to do with the NRA.
Marijuana / cannabis laws are yet another example of institutional racism in action, and the racist roots of marijuana laws are well documented. This law is disproportionately prosecuted against Hispanic offenders, and there are a myriad of arguments for cannabis being rescheduled to make it available via legal means. Until this happens, firearms owners are stuck between a rock & a hard place – they are forced to choose between their 2nd Amendment rights and marijuana usage.
I personally think it’s shameful that after 8 years of a Democratic President who openly admitted being a regular user of marijuana during his high school years, who stated that marijuana use was no more dangerous than alcohol… zero action was taken to solve this issue. It is especially ironic to consider that had President Obama been convicted for unlawful marijuana use, he may not have reached the highest political office.
Castile’s death was a tragic, avoidable police shooting, but the NRA absolutely cannot be blamed for it, nor is it “evidence” of any prejudice or racism on the NRA’s part.