I don’t consider there to have ever been a question of if State-level nullification legislation was going to be taken seriously, if I may start off being blunt. The Federal government had no intention of sitting idly by as more than half of the Republic started making their own rules for firearms… All categories of them. Most certainly not when it came to legislation which nullified or seemingly nullified Federal firearm laws and protected the Second Amendment. These state laws have varying titles, depending on where the bills were originally written. Montana goes back as being the initial push against Federal firearms and firearms commerce regulation inside the state boundaries with the Firearms Freedom Act of 2009. The law covered all currently regulated NFA items with the simple stipulation that it was stamped or roll-marked, for example, “Made in Montana”.
Later, the legislation was molded into the Second Amendment Preservation [or Protection] Acts. These acts came in two forms. The first was to be a three-step system, which first focused on banning future federal laws – such as another Federal Assault Weapons Ban. The second was a nullification bill which would cover any Federal law – past, present and/or future. The 2APA legislation specifically covered items such as standard-capacity (see: “high-capacity”) ammunition magazines, collapsible buttstocks, foregrips, pistol grips and/or any other “assault feature” – as outlined by whoever came up with the next Federal AWB legislation. The Tenth Amendment Center created these models of legislation for residents to submit to their legislators and have many more nullification legislation options on their website.
Which brings us to long-awaited throw-down between the U.S. Federal Government and an individual(s) of a state with nullification laws in effect. The extremely recent Cox-Kettler suppressor case in Kansas is that tangle. Kansas passed the Second Amendment Protection Act in 2013 and the bill is in the second form of the aforementioned 2APA legislation. Shane Cox was a federally licensed firearms dealer in Kansas who manufactured and sold the [unregistered] suppressors to Kansas customers. Cox, per the Wichita Eagle, deliberated the issue with lawyer and local law enforcement; all was legal if the suppressor remained inside the state boundaries (as defined by Senate Bill 102) despite an BATFE sending out a reminder to all FFLs that Federal laws still applied to them on 8 July, 2013. I assume that, to accomplish this and though nothing but “firearms” were covered here (as outlined in Section 5 of the act), the suppressor may have also been stamped “Made in Kansas”. Cox sold one of those suppressors to Jeremy Kettler; and, akin to any other bad decision, a video eventually made it to YouTube.
The BATFE has relied, since Montana’s FFA, on their ability to regulate firearms dealers due to the licensing requirements on the commerce of firearms. If you are a dealer and do not comply with Federal firearms regulations? You are going to jail and it will be a case of “another one down”. Jeremy Kettler, although inadvertently, could very well have the grounds for a landmark court case. However, and quite frankly, the law was never on his side. The 2APA legislation is better suited to one who can do their own manufacturing of the restricted items and then keep it quiet. Yes, that person can be charged with the manufacturing of a controlled item; but, if it didn’t end up on the internet or be seen in a public area, who would know. I mean, what did they expect would happen. The Kansas 2APA legislation outlined that a Kansas law officer would not interfere or arrest with anybody except a Federal law officer who may be trying to arrest a Kansas citizen who was in possession of a controlled item. Did that mean an officer would be posted with everyone who was committing a Federal violation? No.
I will make this as clear as I can. I do not support any Federal-level firearms legislation that curtails certain types firearms or the accessories or ammunition that goes together with those said firearms. However, a State law will not prevent a Federal law enforcement officer from arresting you for a Federal crime, if he sees one. I have my dream suppressed, belt-fed machine-gun; just like some of you probably do. Kettler could have saved himself a lot of heartache by doing the work himself and keeping quiet about it. Cox, on the other hand, would have eventually been caught due to his sales as a licensed dealer. Either by his own hand or another’s YouTube.
With a new president and a Republican-held House and Senate, as well as a renewed submission of the Hearing Protection Act; we could very well see such legislation passed where suppressors are deregulated to the level of standard firearms. That would mean a removal from the NFA registry, no $200 tax stamp, no waiting period, a refund on all stamps submitted after Oct. 2015 and, theoretically, no penalty for private transfers between individuals. It is certainly not hard or to one’s disadvantage to wait and see how the Hearing Protection Act is received under the new Administration and Congress. Donald Trump, Jr. wants to see this legislation passed on the principle of hearing protection… Thanks, CDC. Additionally, Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner has seen fit to reintroduce the ATF Elimination Act. This legislation would consolidate the work done by the agency into the FBI and DEA while dissolving it as an agency altogether. In a statement on the act, Sensenbrenner said: “Common sense budgeting solutions are necessary, and the ATF Elimination Act is one measure we can take to reduce spending, redundancy, and practice responsible governance. The ATF is a scandal-ridden, largely duplicative agency that has been branded by failure and lacks a clear mission. It is plagued by backlogs, funding gaps, hiring challenges, and a lack of leadership.”
While the National Firearms Act, and all laws in addition and contributing to, are unconstitutional; one must remember that the law is the law. Your feelings on the subject matter are irrelevant to the Federal law enforcement officer and it will not stop the court system from prosecuting you for a violation. If you want to make changes, then your time will be better spent in the realm of political activism as opposed to an imprisoned protest. Raise your voice if you want to see change… Or, put a can on it.
UPDATE: A verdict has since been reached by U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on the Kansas suppressor case. The charges against both both Cox and Kettler will stand. We will have to wait and see if there will be an appeal to a higher court. Listen to the American Suppressor Association’s words of advice: “Keep buying cans!” Descendants of Liberty Press had a perfect analogy for the Kansas situation.
“Laws don’t need to make sense, they just need to make criminals.”
UPDATE 2: Both Kettler and Cox have been sentenced to varying lengths of probation as of 6 February, 2017.