Politics & Government

Gun silencer court case involving Second Amendment ignites Kansas Capitol protest

Jeremy Kettler, right, visits with supporter David Gift after Wednesday’s rally at the Capitol in Topeka. Kettler and his supporters are fighting his federal firearms conviction.
Jeremy Kettler, right, visits with supporter David Gift after Wednesday’s rally at the Capitol in Topeka. Kettler and his supporters are fighting his federal firearms conviction. The Wichita Eagle

Supporters of a Humboldt man convicted of possessing an illegal gun silencer rallied at the Capitol on Wednesday, saying he should have been protected by a state law designed to nullify federal weapons regulations in Kansas.

Jeremy Kettler said he relied on the Kansas Second Amendment Protection Act of 2013 when he bought a locally made sound suppressor from his co-defendant, Shane Cox, a Chanute gun dealer, and posted a Facebook video of himself using it.

But in November, a federal court convicted Kettler of illegally possessing the silencer, and Cox was found guilty of illegally possessing, manufacturing and selling the devices. They face a Feb. 6 sentencing hearing in Wichita federal court.

Silencers are strictly regulated under federal law, but Kettler said Cox was assured by a lawyer and local law enforcement officials that the equipment would be legal as long as it was made in Kansas and remained in the state.

That was the crux of the Second Amendment Protection Act, a gun law the Legislature passed in 2013 asserting the state’s right to nullify federal firearms regulations on weapons that are made in Kansas and never go into interstate commerce.

“It was absolutely legal, up until we were charged,” Kettler said. “And then, no politician or anybody would talk to me.”

Kettler’s supporters are especially upset with Gov. Sam Brownback, who signed the Second Amendment Protection Act into law, and Attorney General Derek Schmidt, whose office is responsible for defending state laws.

“I voted for him (Brownback) and I’m disappointed in him,” said Don Slinkard of Parker, who attended the rally and then went and complained to Brownback’s office. “If he didn’t believe in it, he should have vetoed it.”

Wednesday’s rally was sponsored by the Kansas Chamber of Liberty.

Court records show Schmidt has intervened in the court case, but only to defend the constitutionality of the Second Amendment Protection Act if that becomes an issue.

“The federal court has ruled that the Second Amendment Protection Act, by its own terms, does not apply in the case at hand,” Schmidt said in a statement issued by his office. “That is because the National Firearms Act is enacted under Congress’s power to tax, not its power to regulate interstate commerce.”

After the rally, the governor’s office issued a statement saying, “Governor Brownback fully supports the Second Amendment and supports the Attorney General’s efforts to defend this basic right of all Kansans.”

Slinkard also said there’s a double standard and if Kettler can be prosecuted for relying on the state weapons law, “They (federal officials) should go to Colorado and get all the potheads because that’s against federal law, too.”

Colorado’s law legalizing medicinal and recreational use of marijuana conflicts with federal drug laws, but the Justice Department has declined to prosecute violations.

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas

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