Louisville shooting sparks renewed push for gun reforms, but reactions so far have largely followed a well-worn script
This week’s violence in Louisville has reignited an all-too-familiar conversation over how best to address gun-related incidents in particular — and political reaction has mostly fallen along predictable lines.
It’s become a pattern following events like Monday’s Old Central Bank shooting: mourning, public memorials, followed swiftly by debates about what’s at the root of the problem.
Jason Bailey with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy told KET the public is becoming weary of the predictable cycle.
"People are getting very fatigued by those statements that are not followed by action, because at root the reason we see the levels of gun violence we see is a failure of policy, a failure of government," Bailey said. "No country has mass shootings at the frequency and scale that we do in the United States."
In response, David Walls with the Family Foundation sounded skeptical that violence can be most effectively addressed at that level.
"I'm not as convinced that there's a policy position on a particular gun-related law that's really going to solve this problem," Walls replied. "I think it's much deeper than that. I think it's spiritual in nature."
That split was reflected in the early reaction from Kentucky’s political leaders — with most high-profile Republicans confining their comments to expressions of grief and praise for first responders and Democrats, ranging from Louisville legislators to President Joe Biden, going further to call for action on gun reforms.
"People are getting very fatigued by those statements that are not followed by action."Jason Bailey, Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
One exception, Kentucky Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield, said while government can’t be the only solution, it must be part of it. The Senate Judiciary Committee chair said “we’ve got to have conversations about what government can do to protect against gun violence.”
On the local level, Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton has cautioned against extrapolating from individual cases when it comes to making sweeping pronouncements about violence – urging leaders instead to dive deeper into the data before crafting policy.
"From this time back through '21, (Lexington's) gun violence homicides with youth are down 75%. Now, you have to look at those numbers. We do know that random shootings are up. That's a different category," she told reporters.
Gorton said Tuesday that, while an argument could be made for more city-level control over gun laws, that could result in a patchwork of rules, and most of the power still rests with the state’s GOP-led legislature.
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg said his city is disabling confiscated firearms, but is pressing for the ability to destroy the weapons.
"My administration has already taken action to remove the firing pin before turning in confiscated guns over to the state because that's all that the current law allows us to do," Greenberg explained.
According to Greenberg, under Kentucky law, the weapon used in Monday’s Old National Bank shooting will likely eventually be auctioned off.
Any move in the direction of gun control would run counter trends in the Republican-led legislature, which recently voted to make the commonwealth a so-called “Second Amendment Sanctuary” state, prohibiting local law enforcement from enforcing federal firearm bans.