Concealed Carry Bill Draws Heated Debate

by Renee Shaw | 03/04/14 3:08 PM

In a House floor debate last Friday, tensions swelled over a bill endorsed by the National Rifle Association to allow certain domestic violence victims to carry a concealed gun. Under House Bill 351, abuse victims who have a court-issued order of protection against an abuser can apply for a temporary permit to carry a concealed deadly weapon. The permit would expire after 45 days unless the victim has received firearms safety training. The person could apply electronically to the Kentucky State Police for a temporary license, which would cost $25.

Rep. Jim Wayne (D-Louisville) boisterously decried the measure as "madness."

Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (D-Louisville) voiced her concern about the legal consequences for shooting at an abuser, and asked if HB 351 contained immunity protections. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Gerald Watkins (D-Paducah), said an abuse victim has the right to use deadly force as a matter of self-defense.

One legislator claimed that some domestic violence victims advocates don't support the bill. Those applying for the temporary permit would have to undergo a background check, but would not be required to have any firearms training.

Rep. Diane St. Onge (R-Lakeside Park) questioned the safety of that provision. She would ultimately vote against the measure.

Rep. Reginald Meeks (D-Louisville) claimed the measure focuses more on catering to the NRA than protecting abuse victims.

Rep. Bob Damron (D-Nicholasville) who helped push through the original concealed carry law almost two decades ago defended HB 351. He wondered why lawmakers, especially female legislators, would deny other women the ability to defend themselves.

Finally, Rep. Joni Jenkins (D-Shively) reiterated her position that there are better and safer ways to protect domestic violence victims than letting them carry guns.

The House approved HB 351 on a 79-13 vote. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.