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Kansas State And Federal Government Agencies Deliberate Over Constitutional Right To Homemade Silencers

November 28, 2016

Shane Cox, a 45-year-old Chanute, Kansas resident owns a military surplus store. Cox began selling his homemade firearms and silencers from the store. Each one was stamped by Cox and read, “Made in Kansas”  to assure buyers that a Kansas law would prevent federal prosecution of anyone owning firearms made, sold and kept in the state. Cox also gave each customer a copy of the Second Amendment Protection Act passed in 2013 by the Kansas Legislature and signed by Gov. Sam Brownback.

Cox says that his biggest sellers were unregistered gun silencers. 28-year-old Jeremy Kettler of Chanute bought one and loved it so much that he posted a video on Facebook. That video resulted in a jury finding Cox guilty of violating federal law for the manufacture, sale and possession of unregistered firearms and silencers. Kettler was found guilty on one count for possessing the unregistered silencer. Cox and Kettler were convicted under the National Firearms Act, which is a part of the Internal Revenue code enacted under Congress’ power to levy taxes.

The case could echo nationwide because it cites the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, challenging the federal government’s right to regulate firearms against the rights of states. The judge overseeing the case expects this case to land before the U.S. Supreme Court. Defense attorneys argued that their clients believed the Kansas law made their activities legal, arguing they are “caught in the crossfire” of the struggle between the state and the federal government over gun control.

This case brings forth many questions. Can the Internal Revenue use their taxing authorities to regulate firearms that stay within state borders? Advocates contend such guns do not fall under Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce. Kettler says that he bought the unregistered silencer “because of a piece of paper signed by the governor saying it was legal.” He says Kansas is “setting up its citizens to be prosecuted” by the federal government.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt jumped in to defend the state law’s constitutionality. He said, that buyers’ reliance on the state law as a defense is “reasonable, and it is consistent with the State’s interest in ensuring the Second Amendment Protection Act itself is defended.” Kansas state law says firearms, accessories and ammunition manufactured and kept in Kansas are exempt from federal gun control laws. It also made it a felony for the federal government to enforce them.

This was challenged in a civil lawsuit in 2014 by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The case was tossed when the judge said the group did not have standing to sue. The Kansas law is modeled after the Montana Firearms Freedom Act, which the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has found to be invalid, according to court filings. Firearms Freedom Acts have been signed into law in nine states. In addition to Montana and Kansas, other states with them include Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming.