Prevention is conspicuously absent from Louisville Republicans’ ‘Safer Kentucky’ plan
Republican Rep. Jared Bauman speaks about an omnibus anti-crime plan backed by Louisville GOP state representatives, Sept. 26, 2023. (Kentucky Lantern photo by McKenna Horsley)
After watching the Sept. 26 news conference held by Louisville House Republicans to introduce their proposed 18-point Safer Kentucky Act, I pulled out my scribbled, contemporaneous notes from a Sept. 19 meeting of the legislature’s Task Force on School and Campus Safety.
An hour into that meeting, I wrote: “These meetings are a way for adults to pretend they’re doing something.”
This shiny, new 18-point Republican plan to make us all allegedly feel safer used the same window dressing: a public gathering of lawmakers with a checklist. See! they seem to be saying. We’re doing something! We’re even staged at the police lodge to prove it!
Here is your reminder that these are the same lawmakers who continually vote to promote and protect firearms. Just a few months ago, they passed a Second Amendment Sanctuary bill to protect guns, not citizens, which complements our already-absurd and irresponsible list like open carry, no training, no certification, no waiting limits, no safe storage requirements, no crisis aversion (red flag), no addressing of mental health, etc.
I recently spent a day at the Capitol Annex with Moms for Kentucky, a self-described group of women (and one man) who met on social media and scheduled meetings with Republican lawmakers to discuss the scourge of gun violence and potential, reasonable laws.
The meetings were private, so I am not allowed to share lawmakers names or discussion details, but a few of the Moms for Kentucky asked that I share what they told lawmakers about why they were there.
Rachel: It was important to me to meet with legislators about gun violence because I lost a friend to gun suicide when we were in our early 20s. Then, as a teacher, I had students who asked me, “What if a shooter shoots us right through the glass windows?” and I was unable to answer them. Now as a mom of children ages 5, 2, and 1, I fear for their safety and I want to work to ensure we build a safer future for them.
Sarah: I am from a rural community and gun ownership was a part of our community culture. I remember most kids hunting with family growing up, but I also remember the first time another kid in my hometown committed suicide using a gun. I was about 13. This turned out to be the first of many people who I knew who died from a gunshot wound.
I have lived in three different towns and in each community there has been a mass shooting. This has affected the way I feel in public places. It’s now common practice for me to note all exits and other features of public spaces I am in, and to be alert as to how the other people in those spaces feel. I’ve left playgrounds with my children due to erratic behavior by an individual that has made me worry they could have a gun. I don’t love parades and other large gatherings.
My 5-year-old started kindergarten this year, and as the summer came to a close I found myself losing sleep at night wondering if I should tell him about school shootings in case that knowledge could save his life. I weighed protecting his life against protecting his innocence, and that’s when a fire lit in me.
Melissa (pseudonym): I came to speak with legislators because they need to hear there are many, many Kentuckians tired of gun violence, tired of our children and grandchildren having lockdowns in schools, tired of looking over our shoulders at any public gathering, afraid of gunfire erupting anywhere. If a reasonable bill for gun safety comes up in the next session, they will remember us showing up and hopefully remember that their constituents do care about gun safety and violence prevention. Also, they work for us, not for the gun lobby.
I sat through these meetings between the moms and Republican legislators, some of which lasted an hour. A chill ran through me as for the first time I heard the moms’ personal stories about why they were there, what they want, and why they had taken the day off work and/or away from their kids to be there. It felt like lawmakers were listening.
And yet, the disconnect between these meetings and what I heard in the Louisville press conference was staggering.
In the event to promote their Safer Kentucky Act, we were given a long list of punishments for crime after-the-fact. Where are the proposals to address prevention? To address the fact that Kentucky has become a free-for-all when it comes to guns? And I heard nothing to show House Republicans are listening to constituents — to people like Moms for Kentucky — who are scared for their kids and communities and want simple, reasonable laws to address gun violence.
Rep. Jared Bauman, R-Louisville, said in the press conference, “My constituents are fed up. They don’t feel safe in their own homes and neighborhoods.”
Moms for Kentucky are fed up, too. They’re tired of lawmakers making lists and pretending they’re doing something. They’re fed up with the window dressing.
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