By his own admission, Hunter Biden owned a Colt Cobra .38 Special for just 12 days before his then-girlfriend Hallie Biden, the widow of his late brother Beau, took it out of his car and tossed it in the trash bin at a high-end food market in Greenville, Delaware.
Those 12 days have haunted Mr. Biden, and by extension his father, President Biden, and Democrats’ broader political prospects as they prepare for the next big election.
On Thursday, special counsel David Weiss announced charges against Hunter Biden, accusing him of lying on the federal background check form and of possessing the Colt Cobra while being a user of illegal drugs.
But what about the other gun?
Video from his abandoned laptop computer appears to show a naked Mr. Biden holding a semiautomatic pistol, with the hammer cocked and his finger on the trigger. That’s markedly different than the Colt revolver that Mr. Biden has been charged for.
“That’s not the handgun in the photo, so where’s that gun?” Dan Zimmerman, managing editor at TruthAboutGuns.com, told The Washington Times before Thursday’s indictment. “How many other guns did he own? He obviously owned at least one other. If he owned others where are they now? How did he dispose of them?”
SEE ALSO: Hunter Biden is indicted on federal firearms charges in a long-running probe weeks after a plea deal
Questions about a second gun have swirled on firearms websites ever since RadarOnline first posted the laptop video screenshots, though the matter has gone largely unreported in media accounts.
If Mr. Biden did obtain a semiautomatic pistol in Delaware, he may have committed another crime. Under the state’s law, even private transfers that don’t involve a purchase from a federally licensed dealer are subject to a background check.
Mr. Biden‘s lawyer didn’t respond to an inquiry for this story.
What is known about Mr. Biden‘s weaponry comes chiefly from his laptop, from news accounts and from the facts he admitted to in a document prepared for his court case.
According to that document, known as the diversion agreement, he bought the Colt revolver on Oct. 12, 2018, along with a box of ammunition and what’s known as a speedloader, which is a device for loading a full set of bullets into a revolver at the same time, rather than cartridge by cartridge.
In making the purchase he filled out Form 4473, the federal document that is used to complete the background check for every purchase made from a federally licensed firearms dealer.
He said his name was Robert Hunter Biden, was 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighed 175 pounds, he showed his passport to prove his identity. And, more consequentially, he checked “No” where the form asked if he was a user of illegal drugs.
In fact, he now says, he had been using crack and powder cocaine since October 2016 and became a habitual user in 2017. By 2018 he was taking hits as often as every 15 minutes. He attended a rehab program in August 2018, but by September had relapsed, and moved back to the East Coast.
He admits he was still using at the time of the purchase.
‘Do you want me dead’
On Oct. 23, according to the diversion agreement and text messages recovered from his laptop, Hallie Biden — at the time his lover — plucked the gun out of the trunk of his vehicle and dropped it in the trash at the supermarket. She told him she feared he was a danger to himself.
Mr. Biden berated her in a text message that day for going to authorities.
“It’s hard to believe anyone is that stupid,” he wrote. “So what’s my fault here Hallie that you speak of, Owning a gun that’s in a locked car hidden on another property?”
He followed up quickly with: “Do you want me dead.”
“I just want you safe. That was not safe,” Hallie Biden told him.
She said when she took the gun the car was unlocked with windows open, and she said, “The kids search your car.”
The Daily Mail sifted through Mr. Biden‘s laptop texts and found ones to his therapist where he expressed dismay at his lover’s actions. In one he said she tossed the weapon “for no reason,” leaving it on the top of the trash bin. In another, he said she had justified the move “due to my drug and alcohol problem and our volatile relationship and that she was afraid for the kids.”
He said he realized the weapon was gone “10 minutes after she took it.” He said he “scared the sh*t out of her” so she went back to the store to try to get it., but “it was gone which led to state police investigation of me.”
The gun was found by a man who searches trash cans for recyclables, Politico reported.
Mr Biden bought the revolver at Starquest Shooters, in Delaware. Politico reported that after he lost possession of the weapon and authorities began investigating, the Secret Service showed up at the store demanding the background check paperwork.
Store owner Ron Palmieri, sensing something amiss, refused. Politico said he thought the Secret Service would try to cover up the matter.
Mr. Palmieri later turned the paperwork over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which does have jurisdiction over gun sales.
Mr. Palmieri didn’t respond to an inquiry from The Times for this story.
Oddly, the Secret Service later insisted it had “no involvement” in the matter. But Hunter Biden‘s text messages said Secret Service agents responded to investigate the lost weapon.
President Biden, speaking to CNN last year, said he was unaware of his son’s gun situation, though he said his son’s struggles with drugs were well known. Hunter Biden was discharged from the Navy in 2014 after he tested positive for cocaine, and in his 2021 book, he mined the depths of his addiction, detailing dangerous drug purchases and the depths he sunk to as he fed his habit.
Hunter Biden had been prepared to admit to violating a federal gun law by lying on his Form 4473. Under what’s known as a diversion agreement, Mr. Weiss had agreed to hold the charge in abeyance and have it expunged if Mr. Biden kept his nose clean while serving probation on separate charges of failing to pay taxes.
U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika raised questions about the arrangement at a July hearing, including whether the agreement foreclosed bringing other charges against Mr. Biden and whether it was legal for prosecutors to turn over the decision-making on Hunter Biden‘s compliance to a court.
The weight of those queries was too much for the agreement to bear.
Mr. Weiss has now responded with the new indictment, which includes two charges of lying during his firearms purchase and one charge of being a drug user in possession of a weapon.
Mr. Biden‘s lawyers say he’s been abiding by the diversion agreement since the day it was signed. They argue prosecutors can’t go back on that now.
Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, a gun-rights organization, said prosecutors never should have attempted the diversion agreement in the first place.
“The law spells it out pretty clearly that a person like Hunter Biden shouldn’t be owning a gun. And if you’re not going to enforce it against Hunter Biden I don’t know how you’re going to enforce it against anybody else with a straight face,” Mr. Gottlieb said before the new indictment.
He also chided gun-control groups for not speaking out about Hunter Biden‘s situation.
Indeed, The Times reached out to several gun control groups about their perspective on Hunter Biden‘s gun. None of them replied to the inquiries.
“The silence is deafening,” Mr. Gottlieb said.
David Haas, a criminal defense attorney in Florida, said bringing this type of case over a gun purchase is unusual.
“I would say more often than not, this is not charged,” he said.
Gun charges are attractive to prosecutors because they’re easy to prove. If they can prove someone possessed the weapon and used drugs at the same time, or gave an untruthful answer about it, the case is made.
“There’s no way you’re going to beat that charge if you lied on a government form, essentially. It’s a box you check — I am not a drug user, I am not a felon,” said Dru Stevenson, a professor at South Texas College of Law. “From a prosecutor’s standpoint, this is quite a bit of leverage when you’re getting them to plead.”
But Mr. Stevenson said when prosecutors do make cases based on lying on the firearms purchase form or based on drug use and weapons possession there are usually extenuating circumstances.
“It’s really hard to find one that’s not a tack-on charge. In theory, it can happen, but usually it’s because there was a bust for a straw purchaser, or somebody gets arrested for something else,” he said.
He said that’s not the case with Hunter Biden.
“If I were the prosecutor in a case like this it would be a real question about whether to bring the charge. and it would not take much to talk me into folding it into some sort of deferral agreement,” Mr. Stevenson said. “Yes, the stipulated facts are such that there’s no question he did it, but it’s not something the U.S. attorneys would usually bother with.”
The Justice Department in recent years has prosecuted cases that share some of the elements of Mr. Biden‘s case, though they differ in key aspects.
In Iowa, Jumonie Dontez Wilson earned 21 months in prison as a drug user in possession of a firearm after posting photos to social media showing himself with a gun and possessing marijuana. But authorities said he was trying to deal drugs.
In Wisconsin, Esteban Bernard earned two years in prison for being a drug user in possession of a firearm — but he was also an illegal immigrant, which is another category of person barred from having a gun.
Mr. Biden‘s lawyers have indicated they might challenge the gun law itself.
In a 2022 Supreme Court ruling striking down state limits on who can be issued concealed-carry permits, the justices said that to comport with the Second Amendment, laws must have been the sort envisioned at the time of the amendment’s ratification in the late 1700s.
One federal appeals court in Louisiana ruled last month that the drug user prohibition in federal firearms law can’t survive that test. That same appeals court also nixed the part of the law barring firearms possession by those who are the targets of domestic violence court protection orders.
And the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Delaware, ruled earlier this year that the law’s bar on felons possessing firearms is unconstitutional in light of the 2022 Supreme Court decision.