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Administration hands over political ammo

Published on -5/7/2013, 10:09 AM

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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has handed Gov. Sam Brownback and many Kansas House Republicans what amounts to the political equivalent of a 30-round clip to use during their upcoming election campaigns.

That political firepower?

Holder's letter, released last week, that basically told Brownback the state's Second Amendment Protection Act, which Brownback signed into law and which prevents federal officials from seizing -- or, even worse, registering -- Kansas-made or Kansas-assembled guns that aren't involved in a crime is unconstitutional.

Holder could be right. But politically, that doesn't matter.

Now, no matter where you are on gun ownership or registration, politically, that letter was a 30-round clip that the governor can wield to the delight of gun-rights advocates, or with a little more complicated aim, for certain fans of state's rights.

That Kansas law? It prohibits federal officials -- probably even postmen -- from seizing or requiring registration of Kansas-made or assembled firearms. Kansas made? Well, that's basically either manufacturing guns stamped "made in Kansas" or just sending off for enough parts to make a gun, assembling them in Kansas, and not taking them across the state line.

Now, there really isn't a substantial gun industry in Kansas -- except for sales -- but if you can assemble mail-order parts here, you've got yourself a Kansas gun, and the federal government can't use the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution to track it to your nightstand or basement gun locker/man cave.

Brownback replied that Kansans like their gun rights, they think protecting them from federal officials is good, and we'll see where this goes from here.

The politics? For gun-rights advocates, Brownback has put a line in the sand, he's on their side and he didn't say it specifically, but it's clearly understood that he's on the side of Kansas, not "big government" trying to regulate Kansans' lives.

Count on Kansas gun-rights advocates to find themselves at the Republican primary election voting for Brownback and legislative conservatives who voted for the Kansas guns bill in what will be portrayed as a vote against the federal government. Moderate Republican senators who were ousted in the last primary know what it's like to be portrayed as being for the federal government -- their votes against Kansas dropping out of Obamacare because they didn't think that action would pass constitutional muster came back to bite them as the senators were characterized in campaign materials as tools of the president.

From the small percentage of Kansans who vote in primary elections figure that defending the state against Holder's threats will be a hotter button than, say, school finance or welfare reform.

That more complex state's rights issue? It's trickier, and probably wouldn't be needed, but politically, it could include federal interference in, say, the Affordable Care Act or same-sex marriage. We're thinking probably not to Kansas-raised, Kansas-smoked marijuana, but the rejection of federal regulation of whatever goes on in Kansas could be expanded to several interests.

Only political mistake Brownback made? Probably not rejecting Holder's letter -- saying he wouldn't read it until Holder gets President Barack Obama to co-sign it.

Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report. To learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit www.hawvernews.com.

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