Politics & Government

Kentucky Senate approves NRA gun bill on anniversary of Parkland school shooting

The Kentucky Senate approved a bill Thursday that would allow people to carry a concealed handgun without a permit or training on the first anniversary of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting that killed 17 students and staff members.

“This is how our state decided to mark that anniversary of the deadliest high school shooting in our nation’s history — pass more gun legislation, making it easier for people to carry weapons in our state,” said Connie Coartney, volunteer leader with the Kentucky chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

The Republican-led Senate approved Senate Bill 150 on a 29-8 vote and sent it to the GOP-led House for its consideration. Kentucky could become the 15th state in the nation to adopt a permitless carry law.

Coartney was in the crowded Capitol Annex room Thursday morning when the Senate Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection approved the measure on a 11-1 vote.

The bill, pushed by the National Rifle Association, would allow people age 21 or older who are able to lawfully possess a firearm to carry concealed firearms or other concealed deadly weapons without a license in the same locations as people with valid state-issued licenses.

The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, and National Rifle Association state director Art Thomm said in the committee hearing that Kentuckians already can carry weapons openly without any training.

Smith noted that if someone has a gun under a coat, a permit now is needed. He said that does not seem fair.

“This bill decriminalizes wearing a coat in the state of Kentucky,” said Thomm.

Thomm said crime has not increased in states that have permitless carry laws, but the group Everytown for Gun Safety says on its website that aggravated assaults with firearms have increased substantially in states with the laws.

Smith and Thomm also said people could still get a gun-carrying permit if needed when they travel out of state.

Smith said the bill especially would be helpful to single working mothers who don’t have the time or money to get permits.

A permit typically costs about $75 with an eight-hour training course by a certified instructor.

Coartney said everyone who carries a gun, including single working mothers, should have the training and background checks that come with obtaining a permit.

Some gun instructors have criticized the bill for doing away with training requirements.

During the Senate committee hearing, no one testified in opposition to the bill.

Coartney said her group wanted to hear “what they had to say. We will be speaking out when the bill gets to the House.”

During debate later on the Senate floor, Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, said the state should not change its current permitting system. “It’s not broken,” he said.

Carroll, an NRA member who has worked in law enforcement, said people should have firearms but “in a responsible way.”

He expressed concern that accidental shootings will increase.

Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, said he was concerned that police will face greater challenges as they encounter Kentuckians carrying a concealed weapon without a permit or training.

“I don’t believe in putting guns in untrained hands,” said Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville.

Jack Brammer is Frankfort bureau chief for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He has covered politics and government in Kentucky since May 1978. He has a Master’s in communications from the University of Kentucky and is a native of Maysville, Ky.
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