The concept would be laughable if there weren't so many people taking it seriously.
The idea is that states have the right under the 10th Amendment to unilaterally reject federal laws on issues not expressly reserved for the federal government in the Constitution. It's an old idea — it had a lot of currency among segregationists during the Civil Rights era — and has been debunked by the Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, the Kansas Legislature last year turned that empty-headed theory into law, adopting what it called the Second Amendment Protection Act (as if the National Rifle Assn. and the Supreme Court weren't already doing that). The law exempts guns made in Kansas — and that remain in the state — from all federal gun control laws, and makes it a felony for a federal official to enforce them. That includes laws requiring serial numbers and background checks as well as laws barring the sale of handguns to minors and the sale of firearms to violent domestic abusers.
Some two dozen other states have similar laws or are contemplating their own versions. Kansas argues that guns that don't cross state borders fall outside the federal government's authority to regulate interstate commerce under the Constitution. Courts have already rejected that argument.
On Wednesday, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence asked a federal judge to strike down Kansas' law; barring an unimaginable upending of decades of precedent, the challenge will prevail. (U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. has threatened to challenge the law as well, though he has not done so yet.) The legal argument is dead. So why are so many state legislators wasting public time and money on these efforts?
So that politicians can strut before their constituents and claim they stood up to the federal government over gun rights — rights, by the way, that the backers of these laws believe are enshrined in the very Constitution they seek to subvert. The campaign manager for Sam Brownback, the onetime presidential contender and current Kansas governor, has already sent out a reelection fundraising letter built around the cynically manipulative claim that the Brady Center is suing Brownback for "defending the Constitution."
There is no defensible foundation for these laws, which are destined for the dustbin. Still, states push, wasting time and taxpayer money. Kansas' attorney general has estimated it will cost the state $625,000 to defend it.
Legislators who take up these doomed measures violate their oaths of office, which include a pledge to uphold the U.S. Constitution. It's troubling that cynical politicians play such silly and expensive games. And that voters credit such bankrupt arguments.
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