Standing Up to the Gun Lobby in Kansas | Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Standing Up to the Gun Lobby in Kansas

By Jon Lowy
Legal Action Project

The next time you hear the corporate gun lobby try to obstruct the enactment of new common sense gun laws by claiming, “We just need to enforce the laws on the books,” remind them of what they did in Kansas.

The gun lobby’s lackies in the Kansas legislature passed (and Governor Sam Brownback signed) a law that uses the discredited “nullification” tactic from the Jim Crow South. The law declares that guns made and kept in Kansas are exempt from federal gun laws; makes enforcement of gun laws against Kansas-made guns a felony; and proclaims that any laws that are contrary to the Second Amendment (apparently in the eyes of these same Kansas legislators) are null and void.

While the law’s Orwellian name is the “Second Amendment Protection Act,” it should be called the “Gun Violence Preservation Act.” It’s bad policy, and even worse law.

That’s why the Brady Campaign filed a lawsuit on July 9 in federal district court in Kansas, claiming that the law is unconstitutional and should be struck down. We brought the case on behalf of Brady members in Kansas, including some who experienced the recent shooting by a white supremacist at a Jewish community center.

Courts have recognized for years that states cannot just declare “null and void” federal laws they do not like or wish to enforce. Just as Southern states were not allowed to opt-out of federal civil rights laws, the Constitution – specifically the Supremacy Clause – does not allow any state to nullify federal gun laws that protect Americans from gun violence.

The Act, if enforced, would have drastic and dire consequences for Kansas residents. It could allow some federally prohibited people to buy and possess guns, prohibit federal background checks for gun purchases, and allow the unlicensed manufacturing of firearms in Kansas, including guns designed to evade metal detectors and airport security screenings. The law could also cripple investigations of gun trafficking and illegal gun sales.

Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1958 that any and all state laws claiming to nullify federal law are unconstitutional. However, the state of Kansas will have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to defend this unconstitutional law (the Attorney General estimated over $600,000, and that doesn’t include costs they may have to pay us if we win), and in the meantime Kansans’ safety will be at risk.

Hopefully, our lawsuit will not just make sure life-saving gun laws continue to be fully enforced in Kansas, but we will send a message to other states that if they put the extremist agenda of the corporate gun lobby ahead of the safety of their citizens, they will have to pay for it.