City life needs city gun laws

The state is about to converge on Frankfort for the General Assembly’s 60-day, “long session,” during which lawmakers will craft a two-year budget, debate pension reform and other issues.

Mayor Greg Fischer and Louisville leaders should spend all of their time working for gun reform.

In the past, Fischer has taken a more, some would say… pragmatic approach. He’s said of gun reform proposals, “We’re not going to chase after windmills over things that aren’t going to happen.” While the mayor’s pragmatism is an admirable quality — and one we wish extended to Gov. Matt Bevin and President Donald Trump — there are times when his job and constituents need him to be a lobbyist, an advocate for the city.

Now is one of those times. Gun violence continues to rip holes through Louisville. And, if anything, there is pressure to loosen gun laws: Last year, the state Senate considered a bill that would have allowed people as young as 18 to carry a concealed weapon without training, a background check or permit. Fortunately, that bill wasn’t passed.

Now is not the time to fight only the fights you can win —we need our leaders to fight the fights that are worth fighting.

But it seems that Louisville may once again take the pragmatic approach.

In a recent Courier Journal article, Fischer spokeswoman Jean Porter indicated that the mayor’s legislative agenda “will continue to advocate for common-sense gun laws, including enhancing penalties for a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.”

Common sense would be great, but stiffer penalties for felons and illegal possession falls short of even that standard. Of course, these people shouldn’t have guns and should be punished severely when they do. But while those felons are sent back to prison, those guns are being released back onto the streets.

The common-sense law would require that those illegally-possessed guns be destroyed. Currently, Kentucky law prohibits destroying guns seized by law enforcement and, in fact, requires that those guns be auctioned.

In the past, Fischer has also said he’s for requiring trigger locks, safe gun storage and that gun owners report gun thefts. These are all good, common-sense ideas… they just need a strong advocate who will speak up for them, even if they won’t pass into law.

Another common-sense reform would be the bill introduced last year by Louisville state Rep. Darryl Owens. House Bill 101 would allow Metro Louisville to regulate the manufacture, sale, purchase, transfer, ownership, possession, carrying, storage and transportation of firearms and ammunition. The bill was never taken up for a vote. Fischer indicated he is in favor of this type of legislation, as well, which would give Louisville the freedom to protect itself. Opponents worry about a patchwork of laws, but, then, they find all sorts of reasons to defend guns.

Of all ideas or proposals (of which I’ll take any… just give me one…), this is where Fischer and Louisville should focus all of their efforts. It’s precisely how and why local government should work. This should make sense to conservatives who, historically, were for local government (although that conservative ideology became conservative hypocrisy years ago).

Kentucky is home to nearly 4.5 million people. Our entire population fills about 110 people per square mile. In Louisville, where nearly a fifth of the entire population resides, that number swells to over 2,000 people per square mile.

So when the Louisville police gunshot detection system picked up 1,294 “incidents” last year, those gunshots occurred too close to thousands of people. If you live in the country, maybe shooting a gun in the backyard is OK. But not in a city.

While all Kentuckians live in relative proximity to one another and share a common motto, we are different in many ways — culturally, economically, politically, demographically. This doesn’t mean that we can’t coexist, but it does mean we need to allow extra patience and tolerance for these differences.

In other words, Republicans and conservative Democrats around the state need to stop using Louisville as an economic feeding tube, while imposing their rural, cultural and political ideologies on an urban center.

There are simply too many people in Louisville to have the same, loose gun laws as the rest of the state. Fischer and Louisville leaders should lobby, advocate and fight for Louisville’s right to protect itself.