Kansas town nixes replica gun in pa­rade

Repub­li­can can­di­date has a fake ma­chine gun on back of a Jeep

Tulsa World - - Front Page - By John Hanna

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.

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