Kansas town nixes replica gun in parade
Republican candidate has a fake machine gun on back of a Jeep
TOPEKA, Kan. — Organizers of a small-town Kansas parade have told Republican Kris Kobach that he must remove a replica machine gun from the back of a Jeep that's become a key part of his campaign for governor and emblematic of his support for gun rights.
An attorney for the organizing committee for Iola's Farm City Days said it was in talks Friday with Kobach's campaign to find a compromise. But Kobach said that he believes the organizers can't prevent him from using the Jeep with the gun in the parade scheduled for Saturday without violating his free speech rights.
Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, has been riding in the Jeep with the replica gun at least since June. Its appearance then in a suburban Kansas City parade prompted criticism, an apology from the sponsoring city and what Kobach derided as a “snowflake meltdown.” He quickly made it a symbol of his defiance of liberal criticism and his support for gun-ownership rights protected by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
But Daniel Schowengerdt, attorney for the Iola parade's organizing committee, said its members felt the replica gun's “wartime message” clashed with the event's message of bringing farms and cities together. Iola, with about 5,700 residents, is about 100 miles southwest of Kansas City.
Schowengerdt said the organizers had no problem with the Jeep, which is decorated with U.S. flag designs and has a bobble-head of President Donald Trump on its hood — only with the replica machine gun. He said that under past U.S. Supreme Court decisions, private parade organizers have a right to choose the content of their events.
“They are pro-Second Amendment,” he said of the organizers. “This is not a leftist organization. In fact, the vast majority of the people on the committee are gunowning Republicans.”
The entry form for the parade does not mention firearms or mounted guns but says parade organizers reserve the right to refuse entry to any person, group or entity. It also bans semi-trucks and tells participants that they cannot throw candy or other items.
“They felt and feel that a mounted, replica, .50-caliber machine gun does not fit with their message,” Schowengerdt said.