(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal gun charges that conservatives hope are only the opening salvo in a legal drama they plan to put at the center of an impeachment effort as well as the 2024 election.

Hunter Biden was arraigned Tuesday in Delaware federal court, more than two weeks after he was indicted by US Special Counsel David Weiss on three felony counts relating to his October 2018 purchase of a Colt Cobra .38 caliber revolver while he was addicted to illegal narcotics.

Biden and his lawyers have vowed to mount a rigorous defense against the gun charges. But Weiss is also expected to soon charge Biden with tax crimes, allegations that will focus more on business activities that Republicans have tried to depict as part of corrupt scheme that also included Joe Biden.

The president’s son previously agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of failing to pay taxes on some $4.4 million in income from mostly overseas sources in 2017 and 2018. The plea deal, which would also have resolved the gun charges and seen Biden receive no jail time, later collapsed after US District Judge Maryellen Noreika raised questions about its terms. The gun indictment followed on Sept. 14.

According to the indictment, Hunter Biden lied on a federal handgun purchase form when he answered “no” to a question about asking if he was an unlawful user of any other controlled substance. Two of the gun counts carry maximum prison time of 10 years; the third is punishable by up to five years. Judges rarely impose maximum sentences, though. 

Abbe Lowell, Biden’s lawyer, says he plans to argue that laws barring gun ownership by drug users were rendered unconstitutional by recent US Supreme Court and federal appeals court rulings.

According to the earlier plea deal on tax charges, Biden received millions from a Ukrainian energy company, a Chinese private equity firm, and other sources. Republicans have long contended that the president’s son could have only commanded such pay by selling access to his father. 

House Republicans have launched an impeachment inquiry over unsubstantiated allegations that he acted corruptly in order to benefit from his son’s business dealings in China and Ukraine.

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