Attorney General Holder tells Brownback new gun law is unconstitutional
Topeka — A new Kansas law that criminalizes federal enforcement of gun laws is unconstitutional, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said.
In a letter to Gov. Sam Brownback, Holder also warned that the federal government "will take all appropriate actions, including litigation if necessary, to prevent the State of Kansas from interfering with the activities of federal officials enforcing federal law."
The dispute is over Senate Bill 102, which Brownback signed into law last month. The Second Amendment Protection Act excludes from federal regulation any gun made or owned in Kansas. It will allow law enforcement in Kansas to charge federal authorities with crimes if they tried to enforce action against a Kansas-protected gun.
Holder said, "In purporting to override federal law and to criminalize the official acts of federal officers S.B. 102 directly conflicts with federal law and is therefore unconstitutional." Holder said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Kansas, will continue to enforce federal firearms laws and regulations.
Brownback signed the bill on April 16. The law became effective April 25, and Holder sent the letter one day later.
Supporters of the bill said it was necessary in light of attempts by the federal government to adopt new gun control legislation.
But U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom issued a statement calling the law, "illegal, unenforceable, and also bad policy.”
Grissom said the statute threatens federal officers who are trying to keep the keep the United States safe. "These hard-working federal employees cannot be forced to choose between the risk of a criminal prosecution and the continued performance of their federal duties," he said.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has asked the Legislature for $625,000 to defend legal challenges against the law.
The measure was approved by wide margins in the Legislature; 35-4 in the Senate, and 96-24 in the House. Among Douglas County legislators, only state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, and state Rep. John Wilson, D-Lawrence, voted against the final bill.