(NaturalNews) The governor of the state of Kansas has made it clear to the U.S. Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder he is not intimidated by the former's threats over the state's new law barring federal agents from enforcing unconstitutional gun laws.
On April 26 Holder sent a letter to Gov. Sam Brownback, a former U.S. legislator, that Justice may go to court over the law if the state attempts to enforce it. Unfazed, Brownback replied that Kansans hold dear the right to keep and bear arms, as enumerated under the Bill of Rights' Second Amendment, and that they are attempting to protect Kansas state sovereignty.
In addition to Brownback's reply, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a former law professor who helped craft the legislation, said Holder was merely "blustering" over the issue.
"The people of Kansas have clearly expressed their sovereign will," Brownback said in his letter. "It is my hope that upon further review, you will see their right to do so."
'I think the people of Kansas are going to back this up'
According to the new law, Kansas is essentially declaring that the federal government does not have the authority to regulate firearms, ammunition and related accessories that are manufactured, sold and kept only in Kansas. The law also makes it a felony for any federal agent to enter the state to enforce laws, regulations or treaties that cover such items, The Associated Press said.
The crafters of the law say firearms, ammo and accessories manufactured and kept in Kansas do not fall under the Interstate Commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, and therefore are outside of federal purview. Holder, in his letter, said that didn't matter because of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which states essentially that federal laws trump state laws.
"Kansas may not prevent federal employees and officials from carrying out their official responsibilities," Holder wrote. "And a state certainly may not criminalize the exercise of federal responsibilities."
Kansas officials and pro-gun rights groups say they expected that kind of response from the Obama administration, which selectively enforces federal law as it is but which has demonstrated a zeal for new gun control legislation.
"I think the people of Kansas are going to back this up," Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, told AP. "Probably thousands of grass-roots citizens are all in."
"The people of Kansas have repeatedly and overwhelmingly reaffirmed their commitment to protecting this fundamental right," Brownback wrote in his letter.
The Kansas law was modeled on a 2009 Montana law currently under review by a federal appeals court. Alaska lawmakers have approved a similar measure and like-minded bills are currently under consideration in Alabama, Missouri and Oklahoma.
Supporters of the Kansas measure said federal agents wouldn't actually be arrested or detained while trials were pending. They also believe the law will withstand scrutiny in court. Still, according to the statute, a federal agent who had been convicted under the law could face six months in prison, though the most likely sentence would be probation.
'We are confident in our position'
Kobach has labeled Holder's legal analysis "simplistic and incorrect," adding that Kansas' statute is a valid legal tool protecting state residents from unconstitutional anti-gun measures that might be enacted by Congress.
"We are very, very confident of our position," Kobach told the AP. "The state of Kansas is not in any way afraid of a legal challenge."
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office is already preparing for potential legal challenges from the federal government. In anticipation of litigation, the office has requested an additional $225,000 in funding over the next two years to cover expected court costs.
Stoneking forecast that a dispute might occur if a local gunsmith sells a firearm that was built in Kansas to a state resident without adhering to the federally required instant background check of the buyer, or by registering the gun.
"Until that actually happens, there won't be any litigation," Stoneking said. "The federal government will have to have some way of finding out."