Joe Gerth takes an all day course to get his conceal carry permit at Openrange.
Marty Pearl/Special to Courier Journal, Louisville Courier Journal
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Kentucky lawmakers approved legislation Friday that lets people carry a concealed gun without first getting a permit – or completing a background check and safety training – and sent it to Gov. Matt Bevin for consideration.
The state House voted 60-37 to approve Senate Bill 150 despite opposition from the Louisville Metro Police Department and the Kentucky State Fraternal Order of Police, as well as the Kentucky chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a nationwide organization that’s working to curb gun violence.
“We are supportive of the rights we protect for all citizens but have safety concerns with this bill as it stands,” the Kentucky State FOP said in a tweet Friday before the House vote. “We are concerned this bill could have potentially deadly, unintended consequences.”
During Friday’s debate, Democratic state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian recalled the legislature’s decision in 2017 to approve a “Blue Lives Matter” law that made it a hate crime to target police officers and juxtaposed it against lawmakers’ willingness to support the permitless concealed carry bill despite opposition from law enforcement.
“Actually, blue lives really don’t matter, do they? Not much,” said Marzian, who opposed the measure.
State law currently requires people to get a permit before carrying a concealed firearm. That process requires them to undergo a background check, complete some gun safety training and pay a $60 fee, but SB 150 axes the permit requirement for anyone who’s at least 21 years old and who meets other legal rules for gun ownership.
Proponents of the bill, which is backed by the National Rifle Association, emphasized that people in Kentucky already are allowed to openly carry a gun without a permit.
They also have pointed to the current permit process and mandatory fee as barriers that prevent poor people – and especially poor minorities – from carrying a concealed firearm for self-defense.
“This is simply applying and acting upon a constitutional right that each and every one of us has,” said Republican state Rep. John Blanton.
Since the state Senate already approved the bill in February, the legislation now heads to the governor, who has the power to sign it into law or to veto it.
People still would have the option to get a concealed carry permit if Bevin signs the bill into law, but it wouldn’t be mandatory. Many other states still require the permits and honor those issued in Kentucky, which is one reason someone might still want to get one.
Connie Coartney, the Kentucky state chapter leader for Moms Demand Action, said her organization’s members will reach out to Bevin to ask for a veto and continue pushing for public policies that will help prevent gun violence.
“Obviously, we’re very disappointed that our lawmakers didn’t listen to law enforcement on this issue and instead listened to the gun lobby and put their needs in front of Kentuckians’ safety,” she said of Friday’s vote.
Some state legislators also raised concerns that the measure could put police officers, women in abusive relationships and other Kentuckians in danger.
“This is about every single person in the commonwealth of Kentucky that just wants to live,” Democratic state Rep. Charles Booker said. “Yes, you have a right to carry, but you also have a right to life.”
GOP state Rep. Robert Goforth said he was voting for this bill to protect women, and specifically his wife and children. His wife hasn’t had the time to get a concealed carry permit because she’s busy caring for their young children, whom she needs to be able to protect wherever they go, he told his colleagues in the House.
Democrats weren’t the only ones who expressed concerns about the bill on Friday.
Republican Jeff Hoover, the former House speaker, said he believes there should be some acknowledgement of and accountability for the responsibility that carrying a concealed weapon involves.
“It’s unfortunate that some have taken the position: ‘If you vote against this, you’re not for constitutional rights.’ That is not true,” Hoover said.
Follow Morgan Watkins on Twitter: @morganwatkins26.
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