Temporary removal of firearms bill ‘constitutionally sound,’ says Republican sponsor

‘Not a gun-grabbing bill’

By: - January 25, 2024 2:04 pm

Flowers rest on steps at a memorial in Louisville for victims of an April 12, 2022 mass shooting. (Kentucky. Lantern photo by Abbey Cutrer)

This story mentions suicide. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

FRANKFORT — Admitting it faces a “tough uphill climb,” Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield filed a bill on Thursday to temporarily remove firearms from Kentuckians at risk of harming themselves or others.

“There is more support for it than you hear,” Westerfield said of his Crisis Aversion and Rights Retention Orders bill, or CARR. It would allow courts to temporarily remove firearms from Kentuckians at risk of harming themselves or others. 

Westerfield, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Senate Bill 13 is the “cleanest” version and comes after feedback from his colleagues during a December interim hearing before the Joint Committee on Judiciary. 

Draft language of the bill says: 

  • Law enforcement cannot enter a person’s home “or interior premises” to gather their guns unless that person needs and requests assistance in doing so. 
  • Police must give a receipt to the respondent detailing what guns were taken. 
  • While the CARR order is in effect, the respondent cannot possess or buy guns. 
  • The court must tell the respondent that they are not being charged with a crime and that they have the right to rebuttal. 
Whitney Westerfield (LRC Public Information)

“We don’t want to take away guns from people who are law-abiding citizens,” Westerfield said Thursday to a supporter rally. “We want to step in temporarily to keep people safe. We don’t want it to be abused. We want to do something responsible, constitutional, to keep people safe. That’s what CARR does.” 

Sen. David Yates, D-Louisville, said judges that are entrusted with complicated child custody situations can also be trusted to know when people can’t be trusted to have guns. 

“This is not a gun-grabbing bill,” said Yates. “Public safety has got to be a top priority. And right now, we are in a crisis.” 

Sheila Schuster, a licensed psychologist and the executive director of the KY Mental Health Coalition, previously told the Lantern that “the truth is that people with a mental illness are 10 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than to be a perpetrator.” 

She also said suicidal people taking their lives happens at an “astronomical percentage higher if there’s a gun within reach than if there’s not.” 

The nonprofit Whitney Strong, which works to end gun violence, reports that a majority of gun deaths in Kentucky were suicide in 2021 — 534 compared to 364 homicides. That same year, there was a suicide by firearm every 16 hours in Kentucky, according to Whitney Strong data shared Thursday. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 988.

Westerfield called his bill “constitutionally sound” and said he hopes it gets a hearing this session. 

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Sarah Ladd
Sarah Ladd

Sarah Ladd is a Louisville-based journalist from West Kentucky who's covered everything from crime to higher education. She spent nearly two years on the metro breaking news desk at The Courier Journal. In 2020, she started reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and has covered health ever since. As the Kentucky Lantern's health reporter, she focuses on mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, children's welfare, COVID-19 and more.

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