FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Senate overwhelmingly approved a proposal Monday that would let the state ignore any new federal gun laws.
After a lively debate that involved discussion of everything from the Gettysburg Address to a shortage of ammunition, the chamber approved Senate Bill 129, sponsored by Republican Sen. Jared Carpenter of Berea, on a 34-3 vote.
The three Democratic senators who voted against the measure — Wayne McGarvey and Gerald Neal of Louisville and Kathy Stein of Lexington — said it would violate the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause.
McGarvey said that he supported the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gives people the right to keep and bear arms, but that he couldn't vote for a measure that was unconstitutional.
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Instead of passing a bill that violates the U.S. Constitution, he suggested the Senate approve a resolution urging Congress not to take away the right to own and wear guns.
Stein called the bill "meaningless" and asked her colleagues, "Can we please rise above the temptation to pander?"
In contrast, Carpenter said the measure was needed to protect the Second Amendment. He noted that he could not find small-shell ammunition to buy over the weekend because many Kentuckians are buying ammo in fear that the government will take away their guns.
Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pike ville, said guns were "a way of life in Kentucky, especially in rural areas," adding that he was teaching his son gun safety as his father taught him.
In voting for the bill, Jones said legislators should do everything they can to make sure gun rights are not weakened.
Stein said she believed in the Second Amendment but "with limitations."
"If we do this, we will pick and choose what parts of the Constitution of the United States we will adhere to and which ones we will ignore," she said. "No one is coming to get your guns and to cut down on the availability of ammunition."
Stein noted that President Abraham Lincoln relied on the Constitution's Supremacy Clause to save the country. She then quoted his Gettysburg Address.
Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, said he believes the U.S. Constitution is the "supreme law of the land," but he voted for the bill "to make my position known on the Second Amendment."
Carpenter's bill, which the National Rifle Association is pushing in other states, is a response to several gun control initiatives that President Barack Obama unveiled last month in the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Obama has proposed legislation to require universal background checks for gun purchasers and to reinstate a federal ban on some assault weapons.
SB 129 carries an emergency clause, meaning it would take effect immediately upon becoming law. It now goes to the House for consideration.
The Senate also approved SB 150, sponsored by Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, that reduces from 90 days to 60 days the amount of time state police have to approve or deny an application for a license to carry a concealed deadly weapon.
The vote was 36-1. Neal cast the only "no" vote.