About 150 people decked out in red T-shirts that said “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America” roamed the state Capitol this week advocating more gun control.
State lawmakers, though, have a different idea: a Senate committee could consider a bill as soon as Thursday that would allow people to carry a concealed handgun without a permit or training.
The National Rifle Association, which is pushing the so-called permitless carry bill, said the bill will give law-abiding gun owners the ability to better protect themselves and their loved ones.
Connie Coartney, volunteer leader with the Kentucky chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said the measure — Senate Bill 150 — “would dismantle Kentucky’s permitting system that has kept our communities safe for years.”
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“SB 150 would allow some people with dangerous histories to carry a loaded handgun in public, with no background check and no safety training, putting all Kentuckians at risk,” Coartney said. “This is a dangerous and irresponsible piece of legislation and we will not rest until it’s defeated.”
NRA state director Art Thomm said in a statement that the 5 million members of his association applaud the “common-sense measure that provides the law-abiding citizens of Kentucky with greater freedom to defend themselves, their homes and their families.”
Not all NRA members agree.
Marty Dailey, a lifetime NRA member who owns a Richmond business that offers firearm safety courses needed to obtain permits, said he opposes the bill.
“People need some kind of firearm training if they are going to handle a gun,” said Dailey, who has been a firearms instructor for the last 10 years.
The law also would eliminate the background checks on gun owners that are tied to the permitting process, Dailey said.
Under current law, a person who wants to carry a concealed gun must first pass a state police background check, Daily said. Once a permit is issue, he said, state police conduct background checks every 30 days.
“They still will do background checks on those who have concealed carry permits but not for others who will carry guns without a permit if this bill becomes law,” he said. “That will harm police work because police can now immediately check to see if someone has a permit. They won’t be able to check all who carry concealed guns.”
Dailey also was displeased that the bill appears to be on the fast track in the Senate. It was given its second of three readings Tuesday — parliamentary action needed before the full Senate can vote on a bill.
“This means as soon as it gets out of the committee, possibly this week, the full Senate can vote on it,” said Dailey. “The public is not getting any time to comment on it and they know that.”
Instructor Rick Strohmeier of Jefferson County, who has been teaching students how to get gun permits for 10 years, said the bill is “the dumbest thing I ever heard. This would put every one of our police officers at risk.”
He said police would no longer be able to conduct background checks on adults who carry concealed weapons without a permit.
“Would you give the keys of your car to your 16-year-old without any training? Of course not,” said Strohmeier, who says he strongly supports the 2nd Amendment and has been an NRA member for years. “This bill would be as dangerous.”
Strohmeier said he knows some supporters of the bill will say he is against it because he would lose money if permits are no longer required.
“That’s crazy,” he said. “I oppose the bill because I have seen many students who didn’t think they needed training, that the 2nd Amendment said nothing about training, but I have seen them change their mind when they realize how important training is for them and others around them.”
The NRA’s Thomm said the bill does not change prohibited places where a firearm cannot be carried and does not change laws relating to when force may be used in self-defense.
He also said private property owners still would maintain discretion over their own property, including whether and on what terms to allow firearms.
Kentucky could become the 15th state in the nation to adopt a permitless carry law, he said.
Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, is the primary sponsor of the bill . He said current law allows adults to carry a gun openly. “But if your jacket falls over it, you need a permit and all of a sudden, I’ve got a problem if I don’t have a permit,” he said.
Smith filed the bill Monday, saying it “will allow a good dialogue about gun rights.” He noted that Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, sponsored a similar bill in the 2016 state legislature. It did not get out of committee.
Senate Republican leaders have assigned SB 150 to the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee. It meets Thursday and Robinson is its chair.
“I think we’re ready to start this discussion,” said Smith. “There are a lot of people who care for this bill.”
Eight other Republican senators have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, including Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer of Georgetown and Ralph Alvarado, a Winchester physician who is running for lieutenant governor this year on a ticket with Gov. Matt Bevin.
The bill states that people age 21 or older who are able to lawfully possess a firearm may carry concealed firearms or other concealed deadly weapons without a license in the same locations as people with valid state-issued licenses.
People would not be able to carry or possess any deadly weapon where it is prohibited by federal law.
Now, a person who wants to carry a concealed deadly weapon in Kentucky must have a permit, which is obtained by completing a firearms safety training course led by a certified instructor.
The course must include range firing of a handgun in a safe manner and the firing of not more than 20 rounds at a full-size silhouette target, with at least 11 rounds hitting the silhouette.
Kentucky licenses to carry concealed deadly weapons are valid for five years. Kentucky law prevents a license from being renewed without a background check.
The cost for a course, said Dailey, is $75. The instructor may tack on $10 for materials, he said.
Gun control advocates, meanwhile, are backing a measure — Senate Bill 177 — to keep guns out of the hands of domestic violence abusers. Its primary sponsor is Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville.
About 24 states have such legislation. From 2013 to 2017, at least 151 people were killed by intimate partners in Kentucky. Of that number, 103 — or nearly 70 percent — were shot and killed and 80 were women, according to Moms Demand Action.
Federal law already prohibits criminals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes from having guns, said Coartney of Moms Demand Action.
“But without a matching state-level law, Kentucky law enforcement officials cannot enforce this important public safety measure,” she said.
Coartney, of Crestwood in Oldham County, got interested in gun issues after 20 children between six and seven years old and six adult staff members were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012.
“I had a first grader at the time. I was devastated. That was my tipping point and felt I had to do something,” she said.