A freshman lawmaker from Louisville is looking to improve gun safety in Kentucky by trying to create an Office of Gun Violence Prevention within the Kentucky Department for Public Health.
On Tuesday, Rep. Keturah Herron (D-Louisville) spoke about the idea to the Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity and said she plans to introduce a bill in the 2023 session.
“The office will also collect and disseminate data and make recommendations related to gun violence policy and community-based gun violence intervention and prevention programs,” Herron said, elaborating that the office would be similar to the Office of Drug Control Policy.
Herron said that she has seen the impact of gun violence first-hand. Sabrina Brown, the core director and an investigator for the Kentucky Injury and Prevention Research Center, presented with Herron. She said that said six out of 10 deaths in the U.S. in 2019 were firearm-related suicides, and 109 people died a firearm-related death every day in 2019.
Herron told the commission that this bill is not seeking to ban guns or impose new restrictions on gun ownership.
“I know that when you say ‘gun violence,’ people get scared, they think that you’re talking about taking guns away,” Herron said. “For the record, I do fully support the Second Amendment, and I am a legal gun owner.”
Herron’s idea comes when the Kentucky legislature is poised to block most any potential gun legislation. In the 2022 session, one such gun bill failed to make it to committee.
The Crisis Aversion and Rights Retention law, sponsored by State Senators Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) and Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville), would help gun owners access mental health services in the event of an episode.
Northern Kentucky Rep. Savannah Maddox (R-Dry Ridge) introduced two gun-friendly bills during this year’s session, but both failed to make it to committee. One would have banned “gun-free” zones. The other would have lowered the age requirement for concealed carry from 21 to 18.
An outspoken advocate of gun rights, Maddox said she’s opposed to a gun violence prevention office.
“‘Gun Violence Prevention’ is nothing more than a euphemism for gun control, and I am strongly opposed to any proposal that would empower unelected bureaucrats to have influence over public policy in a way that would infringe upon our right to keep and bear arms,” Maddox said.
Nationally, Congress passed a bipartisan gun safety bill that will provide more extensive background checks, especially for those under the age of 21. It will also provide funding for states to implement red-flag laws that allow authorities to take away weapons from those experiencing a mental health episode or who are deemed dangerous.