Gun Owners Defending Suppressors in Court
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Gun Owners Case Would Guarantee Right of States to Throw off Anti-gun Federal Gun Control
Gun Owners Foundation (GOF) and Gun Owners of America have worked to defend Jeremy Kettler, a combat veteran, against criminal charges brought against him by the Obama Justice Department, for buying a silencer under the authority of the Kansas “Second Amendment Protection Act.”
GOF will be filing additional briefs in the 10th Circuit, and oral argument will be held later in the year. But to continue its important work on this case, GOF needs your financial help now.
This case is quite well known, but if you are not familiar with it, you will understand why we devoted so many resources defending Jeremy when you hear about his case.
First, we all know that very few states have had the courage to stand up against the ATF and the federal government to defend the Second Amendment.
In recent years, Kansas was one of the few states to be so bold, courageously enacting the Kansas Second Amendment Protection Act, known as “SAPA.” After that bill was signed into law in 2013, Obama Attorney General Eric “Fast-and-Furious” Holder wrote a scathing rebuke to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, trying to put him, Kansas, and all states, into “their place.”
SAPA, states that if a firearm (along with ammo and accessories) is manufactured in Kansas and never leaves Kansas, then it is not governed by federal law — only state law. There is no interstate commerce in the firearm, and no federal authority.
SAPA even went so far as to make it a felony for an agent of the federal government (including a federal prosecutor, or an ATF bureaucrat) to attempt to enforce any federal law against a Kansas firearm protected by SAPA.
Unfortunately for Jeremy Kettler, he believed the Kansas legislature’s promise to stand against federal prosecution of citizens of Kansas for buying a Kansas silencer. Soon after SAPA was passed, Jeremy visited a local gun store. There, he was shown a copy of SAPA, and he acquired a suppressor that had been made pursuant to SAPA.
Most gun owners in Kansas understood that SAPA allowed a Kansas-made suppressor to be purchased, without registration with the ATF under the National Firearms Act. Believing he had done nothing wrong, Jeremy posted about his new suppressor on Facebook and YouTube.
What happened then? ATF agents swarmed into Kansas and arrested Jeremy. Their mission was clear — make an example of Jeremy before SAPA could gain steam in Kansas and other states would follow its lead.
The Kansas state government — although full of tough talk about enacting SAPA — largely abandoned Jeremy when the cards were laid on the table. Although they have made some filings in court about how SAPA was lawful, the State Government largely stood by and allowed the federal government to turn Jeremy into a convicted felon.
Although SAPA was supposed to be “protection” for Kansans, in reality it has turned out to be a trap. Jeremy was convicted in federal court on one count of possessing a firearm suppressor that was not registered to him pursuant to the National Firearms Act.
Gun Owners Foundation stepped forward to defend Jeremy, working together with the United States Justice Foundation. We have been carrying the appeal of Jeremy’s case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, where it is now pending.
For Jeremy, and for all gun owners, GOF joined issue on many important constitutional issues that have been long ignored.
In our opening brief for Jeremy, we explained why the NFA is unconstitutional. For many decades, courts have upheld the NFA under Congress’ power to tax — but this was not originally a real tax, and is even less now, with the passage of time. The IRS and the U.S. Treasury Department administer all federal taxes — but not the NFA. Today the NFA is administered by ATF — part of the U.S. Department of Justice — responsible not for taxes, but for enforcement of federal law.
Next, our brief noted that in 1934, registration of an NFA firearm was relatively simple, while today it is a regulatory nightmare, indicating that today the purpose of the NFA is regulation, not taxation, keeping guns out of the hands of Americans.
We argued that, while the NFA in 1934 actually produced tax revenue, its “taxes” have never been raised from $5 and $200, and thus today it produces no net revenue — and in fact is a huge drain on federal resources. How can the NFA be a “tax” when its net effect is to cost the taxpayer tens of millions of dollars annually?
What’s more, while normal taxes are crafted to raise revenue, and to ensure that people pay them, the NFA “tax” is crafted to ensure that as many people as possible are disqualified from paying it, and as many weapons as possible are disqualified from registration. That hardly sounds like a real tax.
Lastly, we argued that, even if the NFA is considered a tax, then it is an unconstitutional tax, as it imposes a penalty on the exercise of a constitutionally protected right — the right to keep and bear arms.
Our brief for Jeremy also advised the Court of Appeals that Jeremy’s case is not your run of the mill criminal case. Rather, it is a historic dispute between two sovereign governments — the federal government asserting federal supremacy and the state of Kansas defending states’ rights. Rather than resolve its dispute directly with Kansas, as it should have, the Obama Administration instead decided to pick on the little guy — Jeremy Kettler.
Jeremy had no intent to violate federal law — in fact, everyone agreed that he thought he was following the law. He never showed the sort of typical “mens rea” or “guilty mind” that is usually present in criminal cases. But the federal prosecutors could care less.
Gun Owners Foundation must continue to defend Jeremy and those like him. Our next brief is due in the next few weeks, and there will be oral argument after that, and there may be Supreme Court review in the future. The costs of defending Jeremy are adding up quickly.
We need your help to pry gun owners like Jeremy loose from the tentacles of the Obama Administration.
We must not let combat veteran Jeremy go undefended.
Again, by following the Kansas Second Amendment Protection Act, Jeremy Kettler has been charged with violating the National Firearms Act. Now, the ATF wants to make an example of him, having him declared a felon, and issuing a warning shot across the bow of all states, warning them that states have no right to resist federal control authority over firearms, no matter what the Constitution says.