Every now and then you see a headline that just stops you in your tracks. Stuff like, “Congressman Smedlap Credibly Accused of Molesting Farm Animals” and “Feds Spend Seven Trillion Dollars on Sex Reassignment Surgeries for Illegal Transgender Taliban Immigrants” are just background clutter these days. However, today’s news report about Hunter Biden’s having been found guilty of lying on a BATF Form 4473 genuinely shocked me. I honestly don’t know if I should rejoice or weep.

The Charges

There were three specific charges of which the First Son was convicted. These included lying to a federally-licensed gun dealer, making a false claim on the BATF Form 4473 stating that he was not a user of illicit drugs, and being in illegal possession of a firearm for eleven days. After a contentious trial, the jury deliberated a grand total of three hours to reach its unanimous verdict. 

In case you’ve never bought a weapon at a licensed gun shop before, the 4473 is the form you fill out when you purchase a gun from a licensed dealer. It includes fourteen specific questions concerning a person’s eligibility to own a firearm. Question 21F states, “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?”

These questions are all pretty stupid, to be honest. Unless the buyer is known to the dealer, there’s no way to verify any of them. For instance, question 21E asks, “Are you a fugitive from justice?” I would speculate that not a lot of fugitives from justice would check “Yes” to that. However, the form itself becomes a legally-binding document. It is not intended to stop illicit buyers. It is intended to convict criminals later. 


The likelihood of any administrative gun violation, to include lying on a Form 4473, ultimately leading to a meaningful conviction is quite low. According to the Government Accountability Office, in 2017, there were 8,606,286 NICS (National Instant Check System) transactions. 112,090 of those were denied. 12,710 of those denials were actually investigated. Those investigations produced 12 prosecutions for all causes. Not all of those were convicted. 

That seems like a pretty low yield given the resources expended. The obvious reason is that actual criminals don’t typically buy their guns at gun stores. Ironically, there has been a greater emphasis placed on these sorts of prosecutions by the Biden administration. 

The punishment for these offenses is up to ten years in prison per count. However, most convictions resulted in probation or community service. Gun dealers prosecuted for record-keeping violations are lumped in there as well.


What’s Next for Hunter?

In cases like this, the sentencing hearing typically takes place about 90 days after conviction. The judge in Hunter’s case estimates 120. Curiously, that will put the sentencing mere weeks before the Presidential election. 

While there are those who claim that Hunter Biden will be treated just like any other felon, that is not the case. He can’t be. He’s the son of a sitting president. In this case, having his Dad in the White House might actually work against him. Given the incredible scrutiny to which this process has been and will be subjected, any leniency will invariably be weaponized for political gain.

Charges of lying on the form are typically adjuncts to nastier things like felon in possession or straw purchases. It is the drug angle that makes Hunter’s case so peculiar. That prosecution is vanishingly rare. Whether he goes to jail or not is dependent upon Judge Maryellen Noreika, and there aren’t many precedents upon which to draw. 

Because a conviction on this standalone drug addiction charge is so uncommon, legal experts are struggling to predict what the sentencing outcome might be. As this is Biden’s first conviction, we can likely expect some significant moderation. Think perhaps thirty days in a minimum security facility if that, followed by a couple of years’ probation with an ankle monitor. 

However, many legal commentators have stated that a year or more behind bars would also not be an unrealistic outcome. Nobody reasonably thinks Hunter will be subject to the maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and a $750,000 fine. The 25 years comes from the fact that the max sentence for the drug charge is five years, the other two carry ten. Regardless, as a felon he will not be allowed to vote for his father come November in Delaware. As an aside, they’re fine with such in California. 

It is within President Biden’s power to pardon his son. He has publicly stated that he will not do so. At the time of this article being posted online, according to a poll conducted on, almost 80% out of 422 voters believe that Biden will pardon his son. Time will tell.

What Does It Mean for a Gun Owner to be a Convicted Felon?

Once convicted of a felony, an American is no longer eligible to purchase, own, or possess a firearm. Question 21d on the 4473 specifically addresses that. There is technically a legal process by which one might regain one’s firearms rights at the federal level. This involves a BATFE committee which decides on a felon’s application to restore their gun privileges (they don’t use the word “rights”). 

In 1992, Senator Chuck Schumer successfully spearheaded a legislative effort to permanently defund that committee. Applications still exist but BATFE is prohibited from spending any funds to process them, so they sit in a file. Short of a Presidential pardon, there is no practical way for someone convicted of a federal felony to have their gun rights reinstated. Before you blow that off, appreciate that it is also shockingly easy to become a felon in “Information Age” America. Curiously, while a felon cannot realistically expect to get his or her firearms rights restored, they can potentially regain the right to legally purchase and possess explosives (and yes, that includes high explosives like C4). It’s a funny old world.

Prior to his recent conviction, President Trump was rumored to own some firearms and hold a New York Concealed Carry Warrant (CCW). As a convicted felon, he is no longer legally eligible for any of that. Prominent firearms attorney Alan Gottlieb, himself a convicted felon who had his gun rights restored under this very program back in the 1980’s, has stated that he may assist Trump in attempting to get his gun rights returned as well. 


We’re all boiled frogs. If you’re not familiar with that analogy, Google is your buddy. Encroachment on our gun rights has been so inexorable and relentless over time that we just assume that filling out a 4473 and waiting on an instant background check, that is often not quite instant, is an okay thing. Realistically, the founders of our nation would be horrified to find that purchasing a firearm in America has become such a regulated nut roll. That convoluted process also seldom actually keeps guns out of the hands of genuine criminals.

Even among die-hard gun geeks, there is often reticence to accept the notion of free and unfettered trade in firearms. However, reality is that in our nation of 328 million people there are already somewhere around 400 million guns in circulation. That ship has sailed. Gun laws like these have not and never will have a substantive impact on the actual criminal use of firearms. 

Hunter Biden seems a fairly despicable person. However, I am way more concerned about his business dealings in China than I am about what blocks he checked on his Form 4473 when he bought his .38-caliber Colt Cobra revolver. Statistically speaking, real criminals do not buy their weapons from store front gun dealers. They steal them or acquire them on the black market. 

Ironically, President Biden headlined a speaking engagement at an Everytown for Gun Safety event mere hours after his son’s conviction for gross violation of some pretty basic gun control laws. Standing underneath a banner that read, “Gun Sense University,” Biden extolled his administration’s efforts to enhance the penalties for those who violate America’s myriad gun regulations. He altered his published schedule to travel straight from that event to Wilmington, Delaware, so he could encourage and support his son in the aftermath of his conviction for violation of these very laws. Later he stated, “I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal.”    It is a funny old world indeed.

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