Topeka A national gun control organization has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to strike down a new Kansas law that attempts to nullify federal gun legislation.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence argues that the Second Amendment Protection Act, which Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law in 2013, violates the U.S. Constitution because it seeks to nullify federal law through state legislative action.
The group cited the Constitution's supremacy clause, which says that the Constitution, federal laws and treaties of the United States are the “supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”
Brady Campaign vs. Brownback ( .PDF )
“This law, despite its name, does not protect the Second Amendment. The courts protect the Second Amendment and interpret the Second Amendment,” said Jonathan Lowy, director of the group's Legal Action Project, which filed the lawsuit. “As lawyers say, the Constitution and the Second Amendment is what five justices on the Supreme Court say it is. That is the way our legal system operates.”
The Kansas law declares that firearms manufactured, purchased and kept within the state are exempt from federal gun laws, and it declares “null and void” in the state any federal law, treaty or regulation that violates the Second Amendment.
The law also makes it a felony for any federal law enforcement agent to attempt to enforce federal gun regulations with respect to any firearms that are manufactured and kept in Kansas.
Lowy said the law poses a danger to public safety because manufacturers in Kansas can now make firearms without serial numbers, or guns that can elude metal detectors or other security devices. He also said it allows dealers to sell such weapons to criminals or illegal aliens without conducting required background checks.
"The law should not be called the Second Amendment Protection Act. It should be called the Gun Violence Preservation Act," Lowy said.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lists more than 100 licensed firearms manufacturers in Kansas.
The lawsuit notes that one of those is Minuteman Defense, LLC, of Overland Park, which was formed in August 2013, shortly after the law took effect, by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who co-authored the bill and lobbied for its passage.
Kobach, a Republican who is running for re-election, said his company is developing weapons for manufacture but has not yet begun selling any.
He also defended the law, arguing that guns that are wholly assembled in Kansas and kept within its boarders are outside the scope of federal regulation because they are not involved in interstate commerce.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, also a Republican, issued a statement saying he would defend the law in court. He also accused the Brady Campaign of filing the lawsuit for election-year purposes.
"This law has been in effect, unchanged, for more than a year, and the timing and tone of this election-year lawsuit are obviously political,” Schmidt said. “We are reviewing the complaint and will respond in due course and in the proper legal forum."
But Brady Campaign officials denied the timing of the suit had anything to do with next month's primary elections in Kansas.
“There are absolutely no political motivations behind this,” Lowy said. “I would not read anything into the timing.”
At least two other states, Idaho and Alaska, have passed similar laws. And in Missouri, the Republican-controlled General Assembly came within one vote last year of overriding Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a similar bill.
Lowy said the Brady Campaign was prepared to file a lawsuit in Missouri if that veto override attempt had succeeded.
The Brady Campaign, and its affiliated Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, are named after President Ronald Reagan's press secretary James Brady, who was severely wounded during a 1981 assassination attempt.