The mother of a 6-year-old who shot his teacher pled guilty to using marijuana while having a firearm which is a crime under federal law.
Deja Taylor is accused of lying about her drug use on the form she was required to fill out to purchase the gun which her son later used to shoot his teacher Abby Zwerner. The teacher endured serious injuries and required multiple surgeries after the incident.
Taylor’s attorneys worked out a plea agreement with prosecutors for 18-24 months in prison. Sentencing is set for October 18.
Charges Against the Mother Who Pled Guilty to Using Marijuana While Having a Firearm
Taylor will be facing two separate charges in the case. She is looking at state charges including felony child neglect and the reckless storage of a firearm. She is also being charged federally for using marijuana while having a firearm.
The mother’s attorney, Gene Rossi, describes the incident as “a perfect storm of horrible consequences.”
“A brave and courageous teacher almost lost her life. Miss Taylor’s role in this tragedy is a complete accident and a complete mistake. She takes full responsibility for her son’s actions and will feel guilt the rest of her life,” he said.
Taylor’s trial is set for August.
Federal Laws Regarding Using Marijuana While Having a Firearm
Laws regarding using marijuana while having a firearm has been a controversial subject lately.
When people buy a gun, they are required to fill out a survey. Question 11.E asks, “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?”
The person is required to answer this question truthfully. Not doing so is considered a federal crime.
Marijuana is now legal in some form in most states. However, it is still illegal on a federal level. It is considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance meaning it has little to no medical value and is highly addictive. It is in the same category as more serious drugs like heroin and meth.
Politicians and advocates are fighting to have marijuana rescheduled. The new legislation would open doors for research. It would help regulate the market. It may also change laws concerning using marijuana while having a firearm.
While there is support for this legislation, there are several complications that are preventing it from passing Congress. As a result, marijuana is still federally illegal and people using marijuana while having a firearm could face serious consequences.
Judges Support Using Marijuana While Having a Firearm
Meanwhile, on a state level, judges have been pushing for change. Federal judges in Texas and Oklahoma have ruled that disallowing using marijuana while having a firearm is unconstitutional. While their decisions are only accepted in certain parts of the two states, they are making an impact. Republicans in Congress have introduced legislation that would eliminate the prohibition on a national level.
The judges made their rulings based on a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision that changed the tests that have long been used by courts to evaluate cases regarding firearm restrictions. The Supreme Court states that courts must look at whether restrictions are consistent with the country’s “historical tradition of firearm regulation” when determining whether a gun control measure violates the Second Amendment.
Politicians who have been pushing legislation to support using marijuana while having a firearm include Republican U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney of West Virginia. He introduced a bill that would allow medical marijuana patients to use and possess firearms. Republican U.S. Rep Brian Mast of Florida introduced more radical legislation which would allow cannabis users to own guns in states where medical and recreational use is legal.
Charges for using Marijuana While Having a Firearm are Rare
The federal charges against Taylor are relatively rare. It is unclear how many people lie on their forms. But there has been debate in recent years over the resources used to pursue people who provide false information on background check forms.
A 2018 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office showed that only a “small percentage of individuals” who present false information on the form are denied ownership.
Race is an Issue in People Charged with Using Marijuana While Having a Firearm
There is also concern over the race of people who are persecuted for using marijuana while having a firearm. Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the pro-legalization group Marijuana Policy Project, is focused on those numbers.
She cited 2021 United States Sentencing Commission statistics which show that 56% of the approximate 7500 people convicted of crimes were black. She did not have a breakdown of how many of those people were convicted of marijuana-related crimes.
“About 18% of Americans admitted to using cannabis in the last year and about 40% owned guns. And so there’s an enormous pool of people that are presumably breaking this law and face up to 25 years in prison if they were caught,” O’Keefe stated.
Taylor, 25, is one of the black Americans being charged with using marijuana while having a firearm. Although she is looking at 18 to 24 months in prison for these charges, people who violate this law may be sentenced to up to 25 years behind bars. If the mother is also convicted of state charges, she faces up to six years in prison.
Taylor has been dealing with the repercussions of the January shooting which took place in Newport, Virginia, a state where marijuana is legal.
Taylor’s son’s teacher, Abby Zwerner, was shot in the hand and chest while sitting at a reading table at Richneck Elementary. She has undergone multiple surgeries since the incident. She reported to the media in March that she was still unable to get out of bed.
The teacher is suing administrators at the school for $40 million. She is alleging that the school ignored multiple warnings from staff members and students who believed the boy had a gun and posed an imminent threat to the school.
The family stated that they do not know how the boy accessed the weapon. They believed the gun was “secured” in the home and that they have “always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of the reach of children.”
They also stated that the boy had a disability and would be getting the treatment he required.