Sen. Lindsey Tichenor, R-Smithfield. (Photo by LRC Public Information)
FRANKFORT — Legislation that would prohibit law enforcement and public funds in Kentucky from going toward enforcing any “federal ban” on firearms, ammunition and firearm accessories is headed to the governor’s desk after receiving final approval in the GOP-controlled state Senate.
House Bill 153, primarily sponsored by Rep. Josh Bray, R-Mount Vernon, has faced criticism from opponents throughout its movement through the legislature that the proposed law is unconstitutional, could strain working relationships between federal officials and Kentucky law enforcement and would ultimately make communities less safe.
Proponents of the bill say it’s needed to protect gun rights of Kentuckians from overreaching federal regulations. Similar laws have passed in other Republican-controlled state legislatures.
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.
“There is nothing in this bill that would prevent this General Assembly from enacting new laws and restrictions on firearms. What is in this bill is the affirmation that Kentuckians and only Kentuckians should decide the future of our Second Amendment rights,” said Sen. Lindsey Tichenor, R-Smithfield, who advocated for the bill on the Senate floor.
The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 27-9 despite concerns voiced from Democrats and a Republican; three Republicans joined almost all but one Democrat in voting against the bill.
Democratic Caucus Chair Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington, called the bill “blatantly” unconstitutional.
“Federal law preempts the acts of the state law. This ban simply cannot stand — cannot stand constitutional scrutiny,” Thomas said.
A federal judge last 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.
Sen. Adrienne Southworth, R-Lawrenceburg, argued that the bill was constitutional because any federal law or regulation that would infringe on Kentuckians’ Second Amendment rights would be unconstitutional itself.
“Are we going to have our law enforcement, our tax dollars, our efforts diverted from the needs of the commonwealth?” Southworth said. “This is the kind of thing that is absolutely in our purview.”
Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, was one of the three Republicans who voted against the bill.
Carroll, a former assistant police chief in Paducah, in explaining his vote said he was “totally opposed” to federal overreach on firearms but that the legislation, as written, could put law enforcement in an “impossible situation” of choosing to violate an oath to support the U.S. Constitution by not aiding federal officials.
Under the bill, police officers or others found in violation of the new law could be charged with a misdemeanor.
“We are getting into a habit of going to extremes to make a point. We can make a point without having negative impacts on others who work within our government. It’s not fair to law enforcement,” Carroll said.
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