Holder ready to take Kansas to court over new gun law
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tensions are flaring between Attorney General Eric Holder and Kansas over a new state law shielding guns made in the state from federal regulation.
Holder recently wrote to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, saying the new law conflicts with the Constitution by potentially putting federal authorities in a legal bind.
“Federal officers cannot be forced to choose between the risk of a criminal prosecution by a state and the continued performance of their duties,” Holder wrote in a letter dated April 26.
Holder threatened legal action against the state, saying the federal government would do what's necessary to prevent Kansas from interfering with agents enforcing federal law.
The state is bracing for litigation. State Attorney General Derek Schmidt has asked the Legislature for $225,000 for the next two years to defend the law.
Swept up in a states' rights fervor, Kansas was one of 31 states this year that considered bills to nullify federal gun control laws talked about in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., shooting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“We are standing our ground,” said Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association. “We are not only supporting the Second Amendment, but we're supporting state sovereignty here.
“It is high time that this discussion take place.”
Kansas is believed to be the only state to enact such a law, although a similar measure is awaiting the signature of Alaska's governor.
The Missouri House passed a bill in late April that made it a felony for federal officials to enforce federal gun laws. It now awaits action in the state Senate.
At issue in Kansas is a bill Brownback signed April 17 called the Second Amendment Protection Act. It passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support.
The law makes it illegal for federal authorities to apply federal laws to firearms commercially or individually built and owned inside Kansas, as long as the gun stays in the state. The law also protects ammunition and gun accessories from federal law.
Federal agents violating the law would face the lowest-level felony in Kansas, carrying a prison sentence ranging from five to 13 months.
Yet Holder said that under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, Kansas cannot prevent federal law enforcement from carrying out its responsibilities.
“And a state certainly may not criminalize the exercise of federal responsibilities,” Holder wrote.
Brownback responded to Holder on Thursday with a letter, saying the law reflected the will of Kansans to protect the sovereignty of their state.
Many legal scholars don't believe states can outright nullify federal laws the way Kansas is trying to do with guns and ammunition.
The conservative Heritage Foundation put out a fact sheet titled: “Nullification: Unlawful and unconstitutional.”
Although the think tank's paper doesn't address guns specifically, it states, “There is no clause or implied power in either the national or the various state constitutions that enables states to veto federal laws unilaterally.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Social Security’s $300M IT project doesn’t work
- Man told transit police the Boston Marathon bomber ‘was my best friend’
- Massachusetts teen held in teacher’s slaying accused assaulting detention center worker
- Obamacare enrollees strain Medicaid in Oregon
- Mont. senator’s thesis appears to have been plagarized
- Ariz. inmate’s execution apparently botched
- Troubled childhoods may prompt men to volunteer for military service
- Biden decries voting restrictions in NAACP address
- Head of troubled CDC anthrax lab quits
- Arkansas Air Force base lockdown ends with no ‘credible’ threat
- Medical pot could bring Fla. tax revenue windfall