Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Friday that his involvement in a new firearms manufacturing firm in Overland Park stems from his interest in hunting and shooting and not to set up a challenge to federal gun laws.
Kobach is listed as a shareholder in Minuteman Defense, which hopes to begin making rifles by the end of the year. The firearms will be marketed to law enforcement in Kansas and nationwide.
Kobach helped write a 2013 state law that says firearms made in Kansas and which have the proper stamping and never leave the state are free from federal regulation. He said the law was designed to affirm state sovereignty and protect individual rights to own firearms.
“The law doesn’t give any special privileges to anyone. It protects the rights that everyone possesses,” Kobach told The Associated Press.
Kobach confirmed that his interest in the company began last summer after talking with Scott Shane, president of a brass-fittings manufacturer. The two have been friends for several years and Shane has contributed to Kobach’s political campaigns.
Kobach listed on a state form which requires elected officials to disclose substantial interests that he was a member of Minuteman Defense, a limited liability company. Kobach didn’t say how much he had invested in the new company, but that he wasn’t drawing a salary.
The company plans to produce rifles based on the AR-15 and AR-10 platform, similar to the military M-16 rifle.
Shane told The Hutchinson News that Minuteman Defense would not be a firearms retailer but the rifles could be sold by Kansas retailers. The company expects to begin production by the end of the year.
“I don’t have all the patents filed, but it will be unique,” Shane said.
John Ham, spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Minuteman Defense had obtained the necessary federal permits, which allow for sales across the country.
“It’s been issued, and it’s in good standing,” Ham said.
After the Kansas law took effect in April 2013, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the law was unconstitutional, saying that the Kansas statutes conflicted with federal regulations because they would criminalize enforcement of federal firearms laws by federal agents.
Kobach said the new company wasn’t formed in an effort to test the federal government’s resolve but a legitimate business venture seeking to expand firearms manufacturing in Kansas.
“The law basically seeks to preserve what’s already in the Second Amendment. It doesn’t create new protections, but preserves what is in there,” Kobach said. “Kansas law adds a level of confidence to a firearm owner in Kansas that if they don’t take the firearm out of the state that their rights are more secure than if they do take it out of the state.”
Kobach and Shane said the company will start small but could add several jobs if demand grows for the new rifles. Kobach said it was likely that other manufacturers would move to Kansas from New England and other states with more restrictive firearms laws.
“This is something that I’m hopeful that many Kansans will find useful,” he said.