Editorials

Kentucky Senate rolls over for NRA

State Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, left, and NRA state director Art Thomm testified Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, before a Kentucky Senate committee in favor of a bill to allow people to carry a concealed handgun without a permit or training.
State Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, left, and NRA state director Art Thomm testified Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, before a Kentucky Senate committee in favor of a bill to allow people to carry a concealed handgun without a permit or training. Jack Brammer

What can you say about a legislative body that parades the grieving parents of young gunshot victims before a committee’s microphone, then takes its orders directly from the National Rifle Association?

Moral bankruptcy is too mild for what Kentuckians witnessed as the state Senate obediently advanced the NRA gospel that no matter the question, the answer must be more guns in the hands of more people.

One thing we can say: If the safety of Kentucky’s children truly mattered to them, lawmakers would not knuckle under to the NRA’s demand to dismantle the concealed-carry law. Responsible gun owners don’t want people who lack training or can’t pass a background check hiding a handgun and walking their streets. Law enforcement certainly does not want to end the permitting system; doing so would endanger police and public.

Yet, the Senate by a 29-8 vote approved allowing people to carry a concealed handgun without a permit — on the first anniversary of the Parkland, Fla. school massacre, no less.

This is the same Senate that wants you to believe school safety is this session’s top priority and that has been patting itself on the back for approving a bill to protect students and teachers. Senate Bill 1 is backed by no funding and ignores the role of guns in school shootings, but still, its supporters say, is a good start on increasing students’ access to mental health professionals, hardening schools and adding resource officers.

Kentucky’s children are at far less peril from school shootings, however, than from adults who leave loaded firearms within the reach of toddlers and teens. The Herald-Leader reported in 2017 that in the prior five years a child had accidentally shot another child every seven weeks in Kentucky. Bills in both House and Senate would create the first real penalties for recklessly allowing a minor access to an unsecured firearm. But with the session nearly half done, neither bill has gotten a hearing or has a chance.

A legislature committed to safety in schools also would want to keep children safe in homes where the state places them. But even a Senate leader, Majority Caucus Leader Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, has little chance of moving her bill certifying safe gun storage in foster and adoptive homes.

Adams also is sponsoring legislation that would protect children by disarming perpetrators of the domestic violence that is a propellant of mass shootings. More than half — 57 percent — of mass shootings between January 2009 and July 2014 involved the killing of a member of the shooter’s family or a past or present intimate partner, according to a study by Everytown for Gun Safety.

The presence of a firearm in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent, according to research published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Despite the empirical link between guns and motherless children, SB 150’s sponsor, Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, touted the convenience to single working moms of not having to get a permit to conceal a gun that is more likely to kill her than save her.

As he presented SB 150 to a committee, Smith sat beside NRA state director Art Thomas, carrying out orders that have nothing to do with keeping Kentuckians of any age safe.

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