Kansas has hung its citizens out to dry. In 2013, the state passed new legislation on gun control that–according to the officials of Kansas, made all federal gun laws null and void in the sunflower state. Only one problem: it doesn’t work that way.
Federal law trumps state law. This is called the Supremacy Clause. We have a long history of what legal scholars like to call precedent. Readers may recall the American Civil War, which was–on paper at least–fought over states’ rights.
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Read this one all the way through. There’s a veteran facing federal gun charges, despite having followed his state laws to the letter.
The state of Kansas, though, has reached new lows. Their “Second Amendment Protection Act” was designed to protect the rights of Kansas gun owners. The law eliminated pretty much all regulations on firearms for Kansas residents. At the time of its passing in 2013, the law was seen as a triumph–at least by those who thought it actually meant something.
Yet the federal restrictions on firearms didn’t go away. So when federal agents got wind of some Kansans who were breaking federal laws, they filed charges. And one of those men being charged is nothing more than a sacrificial lamb for the larger political debate.
Jeremy Kettler. This Army veteran had the misfortune of believing his home state’s laws. Kettler picked up a suppressor that had been made in Kansas (the man making the suppressors has also been charged). Kettler tested the suppressor, kept it in his possession, even posted a video review.
Under the new Kansas law, this seemed legit. Section 4 (a) reads as follows:
Sec. 4. (a) A personal firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately and owned in Kansas and that remains within the borders of Kansas is not subject to any federal law, treaty, federal regulation, or federal executive action, including any federal firearm or ammunition registration program, under the authority of congress to regulate interstate commerce. It is declared by the legislature that those items have not traveled in interstate commerce. This section applies to a firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately and owned in the state of Kansas.
Seems clear enough. If it isn’t, read 6 (a)
Sec. 6. (a) Any act, law, treaty, order, rule or regulation of the government of the United States which violates the second amendment to the constitution of the United States is null, void and unenforceable in the state of Kansas.
This is the section that leaves legal scholars and lawyers rolling on the floor.
Here’s how the citizens of Kansas interpreted the law.
Suppressors (or silencers as they’re known in pop culture) are regulated by the National Firearms Act, primarily becasue of their association with evil assassins. There’s nothing nefarious about them, and they don’t really work like Hollywood would have you believe. They’re great for reducing noise pollution.
Because the NFA is null and void in Kansas (according to Kansas), a Kansan began making and selling suppressors from his local Army Navy store. And other Kansans bought them (including, it has been alleged, some law enforcement officers).
Then the ATF showed up with indictments. The two that are moving forward are against the man who made the suppressors (at the shop pictured below), and Kettler (and not, it has been alleged, against any of the cops who bought them).
Kettler is being charged with a felony. He’s being tried in federal court. And the state of Kansas–the politicians that pushed this bogus law through, and lied about its meaning to the citizens of Kansas, and smoked big cigars while basking in the warmth of their NRA endorsements? Where are they?
That’s what Kettler would like to know. “For believing and following the laws of the state of Kansas, I now find myself wrongfully accused in federal court,” said Kettler. “The whole thing is ridiculous.”
When Kettler asked for assistance from the state, the Governor’s office advised him to seek legal counsel.
“I don’t need any more legal counsel,” Kettler said. “I need to know why the state is setting up its citizens to be prosecuted by the United States of America. All Kansas lawmakers who passed this law are completely missing in action.”
One of the bill’s biggest champions, Rep. Brett Hildabrand, R-Shawnee, called The Second Amendment Protection Act the “strictest Second Amendment protection law in the nation,” and swore it would pass a constitutional challenge.
Not all Kansas lawmakers agree. “One of my major concerns was we could put our citizens in a conflict between the federal and state governments,” Sen. Tom Hawk, a Manhattan Democrat said. “We were just putting some of our local citizens in harm’s way.”
One element of Kansas Sen Bill 102 that really provoked federal scrutiny was the addition of language that made federal prosecution of federal gun laws illegal in the state.
“In purporting to override federal law and criminalize the official acts of federal officers, Senate Bill 102 directly conflicts with federal law and is therefore unconstitutional,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wrote of the bogus bill.
Governor Brownback, safe in his wheat-fueled office in Topeka, blasted back at Holder and said the AG would meet the “sovereign will” of Kansans if he tried to prosecute anything.
Now he has that chance. And where is the sovereign will of Kansans? Kettler, who is nothing more than a pawn in this game, deserves answers.
This is a very complex issue, obviously. There is a strong possibility that Trump will be able to champion the Hearing Protection Act, which would relax rules on suppressors and take them out of the purview of the NFA. That would be majorly welcome news, but it wouldn’t undo the damage Kettler is facing. The state must own its own laws and protect a citizen who followed those laws to the letter.