Controversial Bill Allowing Police to Seize Guns from Individuals in Crisis Hits Roadblock in Kentucky Legislature

Controversial Bill Allowing Police to Seize Guns from Individuals in Crisis Hits Roadblock in Kentucky Legislature

Kentucky lawmakers did not act on a bill this year that would allow police to obtain court orders to temporarily seize firearms from persons who are judged a threat to themselves or others.

Senate Bill 13, introduced in January, was referred to the Senate’s Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee in March but did not move. The legislature reconvenes Friday for its last two days.

The proposal is “dead,” according to its principal proponent, Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Fruit Hill. However, he stated that Kentucky’s years-long attempt to adopt “crisis aversion and rights retention,” or CARR, legislation has made significant progress.

More lawmakers support the bill than have publicly stated so, according to Westerfield, who has been vocal about the difficulties of advancing gun-related legislation in the Republican-dominated General Assembly. The GOP has supermajorities in both chambers.

“It would have been difficult even if this wasn’t an election year,” he stated, “because the gun groups and Second Amendment advocacy groups do a great job of scaring legislators into not doing their job.”

In an interview, he attacked legislators in his party who “haven’t read the bill” yet still oppose it, comparing them to Democrats who refuse to even debate abortion legislation.

The endeavor to adopt the CARR statute during the 2024 legislative session was the first since last year’s mass workplace shooting at Louisville’s Old National Bank. In the aftermath, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, called for “conversations” regarding such laws, sometimes known as “red flag” laws.

Connor Sturgeon, an Old National Bank employee, shot and killed five persons in the downtown office. His family claims he was receiving treatment for anxiety and depression, but there were no “warning signs or indications he was capable of this shocking act.”

Sturgeon purchased an AR-15 from River City Firearms six days before the April 10 incident, according to the Louisville Metro Police Department’s investigative report. In a 911 call released after the shooting, Sturgeon’s mother informed a dispatcher that her son “didn’t even own a gun.”

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SB 13 supporters believe the measure will make a difference. It would allow police to file petitions in district court explaining why they are asking the judge to remove the guns.

The court would next evaluate the petition and determine if there are reasonable reasons for issuing an order seizing the guns.

The owner of the firearms would not be contacted beforehand, but they would be involved in the next step: A hearing will be held within the next six days to determine whether a longer order of up to 90 days is necessary.

The bill also grants persons whose guns are temporarily taken a “rebuttable presumption” that the weapons must be restored, putting the burden of evidence on the authorities.

Some lawmakers expressed concerns about the bill both before and after it was introduced. Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, was among the most vociferous, writing on X that it was a “ABSOLUTE DISGRACE” that SB 13 was sent to a committee on the anniversary of the General Assembly passing a concealed carry measure.

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action dubbed the bill a “attack on constitutional rights” and Westerfield a “anti-gun Republican.”

Whitney Austin, who was wounded during a workplace shooting in Cincinnati in 2018, was a prominent supporter of SB 13. She stated in a statement that the legislative session had bipartisan support for the measure, “thousands of emails” to lawmakers, and the endorsement of Rick Sanders, Jeffersontown’s police chief, and Mac Brown, past chair of the Kentucky Republican Party.