by Joseph Gerth, @Joe_Gerth –
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer called for state legislation that would allow local governments to pass gun control measures in an effort to deal with rising murder rates in places like Louisville and other urban areas.
“Here in Kentucky, we need to give cities and counties … the right to protect their communities,” Fischer said at a rally to support gun control legislation organized by U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth. “Cities and counties in Kentucky today are not allowed to pass local laws to deal with violence.”
That state law, passed in 1984, invalidated several existing local ordinances around the state, including a Louisville ordinance that required a 24-hour waiting period for handgun purchases, giving police time to determine the buyer wasn’t a convicted felon. When the measure passed, it easily cleared both chambers of the Kentucky General Assembly, passing the House by a vote of 76-17 and the Senate by a vote of 31-3.
“We should have the right locally to implement our own gun safety laws that the citizens of our cities and counties want,” Fischer said.
Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, saw a tweet about Fischer’s call for action and replied with a tweet of his own. “This is not going to happen. #NoDemGunGrab,” he wrote.
Thayer tweeted later, “Patchwork of gun laws is horrible idea.”
Just over a month ago, Fischer said he would not push for the state to allow local laws.
“We’re not going to chase after windmills over things that aren’t going to happen,” he said in a teleconference.
State House candidate Attica Scott criticized him at the time saying, “You have folks talking (about) the trauma of gun violence and our mayor won’t even try to address the issue at the state level.”
Fischer said he began thinking about pressing for state action on gun violence after the state passed a law forbidding local governments from prohibiting the open-carry of firearms in city-owned buildings.
The rising gun violence and mass shootings such as the one in Orlando that killed 49 and left 53 injured on June 12 made him speak up.
“It’s just the constant drumbeat of death in our cities. Orlando certainly was an unfortunate punctuation mark to that. At some point, people have to say enough,” Fischer said in an interview.
Fischer said he wasn’t calling for banning any sort or weapons.
“I’m talking about just basic, common sense things, you know, store your guns; require trigger locks; if your gun is stolen, you have to report it; prohibit guns from large public gatherings; etc,” Fischer said.
The rally, in front of the Ron Mazzoli federal building, was intended to keep the issue of gun control front and center after he and more than 170 other House Members held a historic sit-in on the House floor last week as they pushed for a vote on gun measures in response to the Orlando shooting.
Dozens of people attended Wednesday’s rally, many of them carrying signs that said “Disarm Hate” and “No More Silence,” and many of them from the anti-gun group Moms Demand Action.
Yarmuth was one of the leaders of the sit-in, which lasted more than 24 hours.
“It’s designed to say to the American people, ‘Lets all become active and loud, because unless we’re active and loud, the people who are trying to stop us from protecting our neighbors are going to prevail,'” said Yarmuth, who urged people to become “one-issue voters” like so many gun rights supporters.
“Since I’ve been in Congress, the list of mass shootings in this country has grown to be far too long and it’s easy to let them roll off your tongue: Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Charleston, Sandy Hook, Orlando,” he said.
“The list gets longer and longer. And every time these events happened, what was our response in Congress? We had a brief moment of silence. That’s it,” he said. “While we certainly want to pay our respects and mourn for the victims of these terrible tragedies, that’s not our biggest responsibility. Our biggest responsibility as government officials … is to work to keep our citizens safe.”
Louisville Metro Council Member Jessica Green, D-1st District, called on elected officials to do something about the easy access to guns.
“There’s a crisis in the city of Louisville and all of America at this time,” Green said.
Green said some of the recent acts of gun violence have occurred just blocks from her home.
“This is a human rights issue and a civil rights people,” she said. “People are dying left and right, slaughtered like animals and left in the street.”
Dr. Keith Miller, a trauma surgeon at University Hospital who treats many of those wounded by shootings, said gun violence in Louisville is a “public health crisis.”
Raoul Cunningham, president of the Kentucky State Council of the NAACP, called for measures to institute universal background checks on all gun sales, ban military-style rifles and large magazines, criminal penalties for those who skirt the existing background check law by buying guns for others and prohibiting gun sales to those on the terrorist watch list.
One person at the event, however, said he opposed all those measures.
Ilya Chernyavskiy, who immigrated from Russia 24 years ago and now lives in Louisville, paraded through the crowd wearing his NRA baseball cap, a t-shirt with an American flag on it and a 9mm Heckler & Koch semi-automatic handgun strapped to his hip.
“A lot of the violence that is drug and gang related, most firearm deaths are due to suicides … the percentage of law abiding citizens using guns is negligibly small, and in general you’ll find that gun owners, as a whole, are a group in the population that hold themselves to higher standards,” he said.
Reporter Joseph Gerth can be reached at (502) 582-4702. His email address is email@example.com.