Phone campaign urges ouster of ‘anti-gun’ justices

Attorney Alan Rupe, left, speaks to the Kansas Supreme Court in Topeka in September.
Attorney Alan Rupe, left, speaks to the Kansas Supreme Court in Topeka in September. File photo

The political action committee for the state’s NRA affiliate is encouraging the ouster of Kansas Supreme Court justices

It doesn’t point to any specific anti-gun rulings.

Robocalls paid for by the Kansas State Rifle Association’s PAC warn Kansas voters that federal courts are moving to restrict their right to bear arms and that “unchecked, the Kansas Supreme Court will do even worse.”

Five of the court’s seven justices stand for retention this election. Each justice must win a majority of the vote to stay on the bench. If they do not, Gov. Sam Brownback will appoint a replacement after a state commission makes nominations.

Several groups, including Kansans for Life, have campaigned to oust four of the justices while retaining Justice Caleb Stegall, who was appointed to the court by Brownback in 2014. The calls from the Rifle Association’s PAC, however, make no distinction between the justices.

“Anti-gun judges are bad for your Second Amendment right,” the call says. “This Tuesday, vote no on the anti-gun Kansas Supreme Court. Don’t let Kansas courts take away your ability to defend yourself.”

The PAC’s chairman, Moriah Day, said in an e-mail that the campaign’s contention that the justices are “anti-gun” does not stem from any specific ruling dealing with firearms.

“There are no recent rulings by the Kansas Supreme Court that I’m aware of that specifically deal with firearms or gun ownership,” Day said in an e-mail. “However, any court that is soft on violent criminals, overturns the death penalty for murderers convicted of their horrific crimes, and is struck down by the US Supreme Court as consistently as the Kansas Supreme Court has, is no court we could ever trust to protect and defend the right to self defense.”

“With Kansas Stand Your Ground laws being put to the test in the Kansas court system as we speak, the KSRA has no confidence that a majority of the members of the Kansas Supreme Court will put politics aside and rule fairly on this issue,” said Day, who works as an aide to Secretary of State Kris Kobach when he is not leading the Rifle Association and its PAC.

Joyce Morrison, the spokeswoman for Kansans for Fair Courts, a group that supports retaining the justices, called the phone calls an attempt to mislead Kansas voters.

“It’s like it’s completely coming out of left field – or maybe I should say right field – because the Second Amendment rights have no bearing on the Kansas judicial retention elections and if we go look at the facts … there aren’t even any cases pertaining for guns from our court,” Morrison said. “They are just looking for emotional touch points to connect with voters in Kansas and by doing this they are once again misleading the voters.”

Morrison also rejected Day’s assertion that the court is soft on crime, a common talking point from groups looking to oust the justices. She noted that the court has upheld the death penalty in three recent rulings and called the effort to politicize the court dangerous for the state.

“This is exactly what we don’t want and that is injecting politics into the judicial system, because we want our courts fair and impartial and we want our courts to make rulings that aren’t based on politics,” Morrison said.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3