Gun manufacturing case pits state law against federal law

Published: Nov. 15, 2016 at 10:28 PM CST
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“They've been used as a tool to intimidate the sovereign State of Kansas,” said Jay Atkin, who came from Kansas City for a federal court hearing in a case that pits state law against federal law.

Two Kansans face up to a decade in prison for making and selling silencers without registering them with the federal government or paying the special taxes. They say it's allowed under state law. But a federal jury says it's illegal.

That jury convicted Jeremy Kettler and Shane Cox on multiple counts of illegally possessing, making and selling the silencers under the National Firearms Act.

“We're starting the appeals process and I hope that some of our state officials, whoever he is and whoever has the appropriate authority to do so, will intervene, said Heather Bosler, Kettler’s fiancée, standing outside the courthouse steps shortly after hearing the verdict.

Kettler, Cox and their supporters argue the 2013 Kansas Second Amendment Protection Act protected them from prosecution.

“He would not knowingly break a law,” Bosler said of Kettler. “They all checked into it to make sure they were doing everything legally.”

She says they checked with both local law enforcement and lawyers before beginning the project.

They believer Kansas law should make them immune to federal prosecution.

“If the items in question did not cross the state line it's not interstate commerce by definition,” said Chuck Henderson who came from Manhattan to support Kettler and Cox in court. He was one of more than thirty people who came from all across the state for the hearing. They see the entire case as a witch hunt.

“It's a clear and glaring example of federal overreach,” Henderson said.

They’re also upset about what they see as a lack of support from Governor Sam Brownback, who signed the law in 2013, and Attorney General Derek Schmidt. While Schmidt did intervene in the case to argue for the supremacy of Kansas law, the intervention only came on November 7th.

The court said Kansas law didn’t apply because of the way it’s written, a technicality. Those who traveled to Wichita for the hearing say the attorney general’s actions were too little, too late.

“These two gentleman were in here, trusting their governor's say so.,” Henderson said. “And what happened when the wolves showed up at the door? They just let them swing in the wind.”

In a written statement, the attorney general’s office said it’s the AG’s job to defend the law, not the defendants and that the court allowed Kettler and Cox to reference the Kansas law as part of their arguments.

You may be wondering how investigators learned about this case in the first place. Kettler recorded a product test of the silencer and posted it online.

You can read the Kansas attorney general's complete statement on the case