Bill to ban state help with federal gun laws, regulations advances from Senate committee

By: - March 9, 2023 1:31 pm

Rep. Josh Bray, R-Mount Vernon, above, will help lead Treasurer-elect Mark Metcalf’s transition. (LRC Public Information)

A bill that would ban state and local law enforcement, governments and their employees from enforcing federal gun laws or regulations in Kentucky advanced from a Senate committee Thursday morning. 

House Bill 153, sponsored by Rep. Josh Bray, R-Mount Vernon, would prevent local law enforcement, employees of public agencies and local governments from assisting or cooperating with a “federal ban” on firearms, firearms accessories and ammunition. The bill’s language would also prevent local governments and public agencies from adopting rules or spending public funding or resources to enforce such a federal ban on firearms. 

The Republican reiterated his support for the bill, speaking before the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee. 

“The concept behind it is pretty simple: it says going forward, no state tax dollars, state manpower will be allocated towards the enforcement of a federal firearm ban,” Bray said. 

The legislation passed out of the House on mostly party lines last month. A similar bill sponsored by Bray last year also had passed the House but failed to receive a vote by the full Senate before the end of the legislative session. 

Anderson County writer Teri Carter testified against the bill, pointing to how a federal judge this week struck down a similar law in Missouri as unconstitutional and void because of the supremacy clause in the U.S. Constitution. That clause establishes that federal law generally takes precedence over state law. 

Carter referenced reporting by the Kansas City Star that following the Missouri legislation being signed into law in 2021, some police departments there restricted cooperation with federal authorities on collaborations such as sending gun serial number information to federal databases or joint drug task forces. 

 “I live in a mostly rural county in Kentucky. I talk to my local police department regularly. I have lunch with them every month,” Carter said. “I don’t see where this helps my community. I don’t see where this helps make everyone safer. I don’t see where this helps my police department.”

Chuck Eddy, a former Democratic candidate for Kentucky Senate District 22 who was endorsed by the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action, said the legislation would require the state “to spend money defending this bill.” 

“In the end, it will not survive,” Eddy. “The fact of the matter is, the Supreme Court is not going to blow up the federal constitution to allow individual states to say, ‘Nah, we don’t want to follow this.’” 

Bray had previously responded to concerns about cooperation between local law enforcement and federal authorities by saying such concerns were not that “big of an issue.” 

In the legislation’s language, it states that nothing in the bill would prevent or limit local law enforcement, local governments or public agencies from working with federal officials if the collaboration was about something other than a federal gun ban or regulation.  

Bray, responding to a question from Sen. Karen Berg, D-Louisville, said the bill was to make sure people like his wife can protect themselves through the use of firearms, referencing a recent federal rule change banning stabilizing braces for pistols as an example of overreach. 

That federal rule change has gotten pushback from federal gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association that say such braces were originally designed for firearms use by veterans with disabilities. 

“Murder’s already illegal. Possession of a firearm by a felon is already illegal. But what it’s going to stop is it’s going to stop people with disabilities or people like my wife who — I frequently have to be up here, so she’s home alone — it’s going to stop her from being able to defend herself or her family as she sees fit,” Bray said. 

Disclaimer: Teri Carter contributes columns to the Kentucky Lantern.

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Liam Niemeyer
Liam Niemeyer

Liam covers government and policy in Kentucky and its impacts throughout the Commonwealth for the Kentucky Lantern. He most recently spent four years reporting award-winning stories for WKMS Public Radio in Murray.