Monday, February 05, 2001

Fights over gun bills return

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Rep. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, is one of a tiny group of legislators who might be considered gun-control advocates. Their efforts in the General Assembly are largely futile and have even backfired. Ms. Stein is preparing for another round of probably losing battles in the short session that begins Tuesday.

        Handgun Control Inc. last year gave Kentucky a grade of F-minus on gun safety issues, the first time the or ganization had awarded such a poor rating. Gun fanciers like Rep. J.R. Gray took the rating as a badge of honor.

        “There's always been that talk going on about gun registration and gun confiscation,” he said. “I think it's just people want to be able to own firearms and protect themselves.”

        The legislature has ordered law enforcement agencies to sell confiscated weapons at auction rather than destroy them.

        Lexington Police Chief Larry Walsh calls the proceeds of such sales “blood money.”

        Mr. Gray said proceeds of the auctions buy body armor for departments that cannot afford it.

        He said there is no evidence auctioned weapons have been used in subsequent crimes and compared Chief Walsh's comment to “the little boy crying wolf. They're operating more out of fear than they are out of fact.”

        During the 2000 session, former Rep. Eleanor Jordan of Louisville proposed a bill allowing police departments to avoid having to turn over confiscated weapons for auction.

        Mr. Gray, in an unusual move, gutted Ms. Jordan's bill, substituted his own proposal to force police to auction weapons and passed it over her strenuous objection.

        Ms. Stein said gun advocates use scare tactics to trample opponents.

        “I don't want to disarm people,” Ms. Stein said. “I just don't want to escalate the gun character in Kentucky. I think we have enough gun violence as it is.”

        There are more gun-related proposals pending before the legislature when it resumes.

        One would prohibit law enforcement agencies from participating in any gun buyback program that destroys the weapons. Another would let deputy sheriffs and corrections officers carry concealed weapons.

        More worrisome to Chief Walsh is a bill by Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, that may expand the circumstances under which people can use deadly force for protection.

        Chief Walsh said people can protect themselves now. “This sort of legitimizes the idea of going to the last step first,” he said.

        Eventually, “There's going to be a dead body.”


Fans won't see cost-cutting in new ballpark
Black history part of white professor's heritage
Girl Scouts not just in it for the cookies
North Fairmount girl wounded in shooting
RADEL: Readers sound off
Steel aid proposal due today
Arctic owl delights Ohio birders
Schools try bond issue again
Trial in fatal stabbing opens today
Ohio heritage corridor suggested
Politicians' patron saint had integrity
Sales tactics bring complaints
Wanted in Fairfield: Time and expertise
Local Digest
You asked for it
'Love Letters' on stage in Hamilton
Class aims to overturn conviction
- Fights over gun bills return
Newsletter accused of siphoning money