In the wake of the fatal school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and possible federal firearm regulations, the debate on gun rights is taking shape in the 2013 legislative session.
Democratic lawmakers Thursday introduced House Bill 265, which would require background checks for private firearm sales, ban firearms on college and university campuses, require the use of safety measures like gun safes and locks, and allow local governments to set gun regulations.
HB 265 would not ban assault weapons or high-capacity ammunition magazines, said Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, the bill’s primary sponsor. But it would require Kentucky State Police to set up a licensing system for those wanting firearms and assault weapons and a system to track firearm and ammunition sales starting Jan. 1, 2014.
Wayne unveiled the bill before about 50 people supporting efforts to reduce gun violence.
Wayne cited a poll by The Courier-Journal that showed 56 percent of Kentuckians support stricter gun control laws, and he noted Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer endorses concepts behind the bill.
He called HB 265 a, “reasonable starting point to find common sense restrictions on guns in our commonwealth.”
But Wayne and others who support HB 265, including Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, and Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, expect a stiff pushback from those who oppose new gun regulations, namely the National Rifle Association.
“This is not a slippery slope,” said Stein. “That cliché is used often by folks who want to miscommunicate with us and frighten us and say, ‘They’re coming to get your guns.’ This is not coming to get your guns.”
When asked about HB 265’s chances of passing the General Assembly, Wayne said he’s “hopeful” the bill gets a committee hearing and “eternally hopeful” a comprehensive gun control measure can pass.
In a state that affirmed the right to hunt in its constitution and last year passed a law limiting cities and counties from enacting local firearm ordinances, HB 265 seems to face a steep uphill climb.
HB 265 is the first bill aimed at gun control, but others have been filed in the 2013 session that would mitigate new federal regulations on firearms in Kentucky.
Senate Bill 92 is among those. It would adopt some current federal gun laws and make new federal firearm measures unenforceable in Kentucky.
Federal agents who try to enforce new gun laws in Kentucky would be guilty of a class D felony under the bill, and it would give the attorney general authority to defend Kentuckians against federal prosecution.
Sen. Jared Carpenter, a Berea Republican and sponsor of SB 92, said firearms currently banned by the federal government, such as machine guns and short-barreled shotguns, would remain illegal.
The looming debate on gun control prompted him to file SB 92 when lawmakers returned to Frankfort Tuesday.
“I had a number of constituents from my district that called and were concerned about the rights that they love and hold dear to their hearts, which is the Second Amendment right to bear arms,” Carpenter said.
“… I’m a gun owner, I’m a hunter, I’m an outdoorsman, and I felt like we wanted to make sure that Kentucky protected itself.”
He modeled SB 92 after similar pieces of legislation recently filed in Tennessee and Wyoming. It’s unclear when or if a Senate committee will take up the legislation, but Carpenter said the Senate won’t be receptive to gun control legislation.
“I don’t think that anybody in the Senate has a palatable taste for those type of regulations.”