Kentucky tops New York City when it comes to gun fatalities, according to Mark Bryant, a Harlan County native and Lexington resident who leads the Gun Violence Archive.
Formed in 2013, the research group compiles gun death information from thousands of sources around the country. Bryant said no one had been keeping accurate statistics on gun deaths."Whereas we look at homicides and we look at family annihilation, we look at accidental shooting, we look at all sorts of shootings that don't necessarily make the FBI's list," Bryant said.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, 155 people in Kentucky have been shot and killed so far this year. Bryant said looking at the numbers of people who lose their lives in gun incidents every year has revealed some surprising findings when comparing Kentucky to other state.
"Kentucky has a very loose set of gun laws, and New York City has a very tight set of gun laws," he said. "If all things were equal, the rate of gun violence would be pretty much the same for both. But the reality is, Kentucky has over twice as many gun-violence incidents than New York City has."
State lawmakers continue to relax what little gun-control legislation exists in Kentucky. In March, they passed Senate Bill 150, allowing people to carry concealed firearms without a permit or training. Backed by the National Rifle Association, the law went into effect in June.
But Bryant said not all Kentuckians think guns make their communities safer.
"Gun-rights advocates always like to say, 'Well, you're just a gun grabber, y'know, you just want to ban the Second Amendment,' or whatever," he said. "And I explain to them that I'm from Harlan, Kentucky, and I've probably been at shotguns longer than they have."
Facing mounting public pressure and protests outside his Louisville home, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has recently announced the Senate could possibly consider a federal ban on assault weapons.