What happens in Kansas stays in Kansas. At least that’s what Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is telling Attorney General Holder about guns sold to residents of the state. A new state law contends that guns purchased in the state of Kansans are free of any federal regulations and that federal agents who try to enforce the federal laws will be committing a felony.
The Federal government’s regulation of gun/gun accessory sales is based on Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution which regulates interstate commerce, but it is the state’s contention that the guns are produced, sold, and remain in Kansas, so the interstate commerce clause does not apply.
AG Holder has told Brownback that the state law is unconstitutional and that he will go to court over the bill.
Brownback replied in a letter Thursday that Kansans hold dear their right to bear arms and are protecting the state’s sovereignty. Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a former law professor who helped draft the law, accused the nation’s top law enforcement official of “blustering” over the issue.
“The people of Kansas have clearly expressed their sovereign will,” Brownback said at the conclusion of his letter. “It is my hope that upon further review, you will see their right to do so.”
Kansas’ law declares that the federal government has no authority to regulate guns, ammunition and accessories manufactured, sold and kept only in Kansas. The law also makes it a felony for a federal agent to enforce any law, regulation, order or treaty covering those items.
Holder’s letter to the governor, sent last week but first released to the public yesterday, reminded the executive that state law cannot supersede federal law:
“Kansas may not prevent federal employees and officials from carrying out their official responsibilities,” Holder wrote in his letter. “And a state certainly may not criminalize the exercise of federal responsibilities.”
According to the bill, a federal agent convicted for the first time under the Kansas law could serve up to six months in prison, although probation would be the more likely sentence.
“These hard-working federal employees cannot be forced to choose between the risk of a criminal prosecution and the continued performance of their federal duties,” Barry Grissom, the U.S. attorney for Kansas, said in a statement Thursday.
Getting ready for what will be a long draw-out court battle Kansas, state AG Derek Schmidt asked the state legislature to increase its budget by $225,000 over the next two years to cover the extra litigation costs.
Until a federal agent arrests a person because he owns a gun that was made, sold, and stayed in Kansas, no court action can be taken because no one has been “injured” on either side. But once that happens, the legal sparks will fly.
If this case took place a century ago, it would have been a slam-dunk for Kansas. However, since the early 40s when Supreme Court cases such as United States v. Darby Lumber Company (1941) and Wickard v. Filburn supported federal action against state sovereignty, federal powers under the commerce clause have expanded dramatically. Added to that trend is the fact that Supreme Court Justice Roberts is a wild card (based on his Obamacare decision), making the ending result of this Kansas case totally up in the air.
At least we know why Dorothy so desperately wanted to leave Oz and return to Kansas. The people there try to protect constitutional freedoms.