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No Vote, But Kentucky Lawmakers Discuss 'Red Flag' Law

AP Photo/Robert Ray

Lawmakers in Frankfort are weighing legislation that would enable police to temporarily remove firearms from those deemed a danger to themselves or others. A committee heard testimony Friday from supporters and opponents of the proposed bill, commonly referred to as “red flag” law.

Arguing in favor of the proposal, Whitney Austin, a gun violence survivor who was shot 12 times at Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Center in 2018, described red flag laws as "balanced, reasonable, and capable of curbing suicide and mass violence in this state."

"I look forward to working with each of you to figure out a solution to balance the right of gun owners, like myself, and also non-gun owners and in the process (make) Kentucky safer for all of us," she added.

Still in the drafting phase, Kentucky’s bill is backed by two Republicans and one Democrat. The authors haven’t yet decided who could request an Extreme Risk Protection Order under the bill, but sponsor Morgan McGarvey says at most it would apply to law enforcement and immediate family of the person in question.

Dry Ridge Republican Rep. Savannah Maddox expressed alarm over the bill’s take on the right to due process, presumption of innocence, and the Second Amendment.

"This proposal seeks to confiscate firearms from citizens who have not committed a crime," she commented. "You can call it an ERPO. You can call it a red flag law. But you are knowingly violating, at a bare minimum, three constitutional rights."

GOP Sen. Danny Carroll urged his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to put aside partisanship and work together on the controversial issue.

"I'm for everyone owning a gun if they're properly training and carrying a gun if that's what they want to do," the lawmaker began. "But we have got to do something to try to lessen the number – we're not going to eliminate it – but lessen the number of the number of these incidents we have... Everybody's got to stop taking these absolutely yes, absolutely no stances. We've got to come to a common ground."

For now it’s unclear how much appetite exists in the GOP-dominated legislature for the measure. Outgoing Gov. Matt Bevin spoke out against red flag laws, but incoming Democratic Gov.-elect Andy Beshear has expressed support.

The General Assembly is set to convene in January.

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