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Mass Shootings and Gun Laws

Mass Shootings and Gun Laws

Renee Shaw and her guests discuss mass shootings and gun laws. Guests: Mark Bryant, Gun Violence Archive; Edwin Nighbert, League of Ky. Sportsmen; Whitney Austin, mass shooting survivor and gun safety advocate; David Burnett, attorney, ICU nurse, and self-defense advocate; U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, (D-KY3) (pre-recorded); and Shawn Morrow, special agent in charge, ATF of Louisville (pre-recorded).
Season 28 Episode 82 Length 56:33 Premiere: 6/6/22

Panelists Explore a Societal Problem that Brings Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights into Conflict

It has become an all-too-familiar cycle in American civic life: A community experiences a mass shooting incident, devastated local citizens mourn, politicians offer their thoughts and prayers, gun safety advocates renew their calls for firearms controls, and gun owners resist attempts to enact new laws and regulations.

Then another shooting occurs and the cycle repeats.

In the two weeks since the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting that left 21 students and teachers dead there have been more than 30 additional mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a Lexington-based website and research group that tracks firearms use in murders, suicides, and other incidents.

Bipartisan talks are underway in Washington to find any legislative options that could actually pass Congress.

“No single proposal is going to be sufficient to deal with the issue of gun safety,” says Rep. John Yarmuth (KY-3). “So we have to pass a variety of them.”

The Louisville Democrat says the House of Representatives is considering eight different proposals, including expanded background checks, a ban on assault weapons, age restrictions on semi-automatic weapons purchases, limits on bullet magazine capacities, and so-called red flag laws that create a judicial process for the temporary removal of firearms from unstable individuals. But Yarmuth acknowledges that these bills would have little chance of passing the Senate, which is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. He also says no law can prevent every gun crime.

“The question is, do we sit back and say we’re helpless to do anything, or do we take steps that will reduce the likelihood or at least reduce the frequency of these tragic events,” says the Congressman.

While many of the House proposals enjoy overwhelming public support, according to Yarmuth, that has done little to move Republican lawmakers to support them.

“Weakening the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens will not bring an end to the violent evil that persists in this country,” says Republican Congressman Hal Rogers (KY-5).

That political stalemate is frustrating for gun safety advocates like Whitney Austin, who survived a 2018 mass shooting in Cincinnati in which she was hit 12 times.

“We can do a lot [but] we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface because politics gets in the way in the way of us coming together and solving this issue,” she says.

An Option to Temporarily Remove Guns from Individuals in Crisis

Austin is the cofounder and executive director of Whitney/Strong, an organization that advocates for responsible firearms ownership and evidence-based solutions to gun violence. The group lobbies for safe storage laws, and a proposal they call crisis aversion and rights retention (CARR). That would create a process by which a judge can order the temporary removal of firearms from the possession of someone deemed to be a threat to themselves or others due to a mental health condition, substance abuse, or other issue. Austin says CARR requires evidence for a removal order, maintains due process rights for the gun owner, and encourages treatment to help them with their problem.

“Let’s get them to a place in which gun ownership is safe so that they’re not taking their own life with their firearm or they’re not harming others,” says Austin.

Such risk protection orders are proven to prevent suicides and reduce the incidence of gun violence, according to Austin.

Edwin Nighbert of the League of Kentucky Sportsmen says mental health problems seem to have driven many recent mass shooting incidents. But he says even when it was clearly evident through social media that a potential shooter was a threat, nothing was done to stop that individual.

“Mental health is a major problem,” he says, “and getting to the level where you can be involuntarily committed is very high.”

Nighbert adds he doesn’t think any National Rifle Association member would oppose Austin’s CARR proposal as long as it’s very carefully crafted to protect responsible gun owners. He also says a waiting period on gun purchases is “not a bad idea.”

David Burnett, an attorney, ICU nurse, and self-defense advocate in Lexington, says he appreciates the due process protections in CARR, but he remains unconvinced that the proposal would prevent mass shootings.

“I’m wary of a law that would require someone to go in and justify their ongoing possession of a firearm,” says Burnett.

In reviewing any gun safety proposal, Burnett says he looks to see if it would reduce gun violence, do more harm than good, and be something that criminals would obey. He contends most proposed firearms restrictions would result in little positive benefit, put responsible gun owners at risk, and be impractical to implement.

“We need to have more of a holistic conversation than just focusing in on the firearms,” says Burnett. “It’s very tempting to search for emotionally satisfying, impulsive solutions rather than look for the empirical numbers and look for the rational basis.”

Instead of limits on guns, Burnett recommends early interventions for people with mental health problems and stronger security in public places like schools.

Millions of Weapons in Circulation

There are about 400 million firearms in circulation in America today, according to Shawn Morrow, special agent in charge of the Louisville division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

“When you consider that the U.S. has a population of just over 335 million people, certainly that’s a lot of guns,” says Morrow.

Kentuckians are well-stocked with firearms as well. Morrow says last year alone, officials conducted 3.5 million background checks on firearms purchasers in the state.

From the perspective of law enforcement, guns become a problem when they fall into the hands of someone who has criminal intent. Morrow says that can happen when illegal buyers acquire a firearm through a straw purchase, from an unlicensed dealer, or by theft. About a quarter of guns Louisville police encounter while investigating criminal activity have been previously reported as stolen, according to Morrow.

“In Kentucky there are about eight firearms a day that are reported stolen to law enforcement, but we know that doesn’t account for all firearms,” he says. “Kentucky is one of the states that doesn’t require mandatory reporting if your gun is taken, so know there’s some thefts that occur that law enforcement just doesn’t know about.”

Austin says that points to the critical need for requiring safe and secure storage of personal firearms, both to prevent theft and to protect children who could be endangered by playing with a gun or a family member who might have suicidal thoughts.

But Burnett argues that even safe-storage laws shouldn’t restrict a gun owner’s access so much that they can’t easily use their weapons to defend themselves or their families if the need arises.

That resistance to something as basic as safely securing guns in the home rankles Mark Bryant of the Gun Violence Archive.

“The one thing the no one seems to want to talk about on the gun rights side is taking responsibility for properly securing your weapons to where they can’t be stolen,” he says, “to where the three-year-old or the two-year-old can’t find daddy’s gun and shoot themselves.”

While high-profile incidents like the Uvalde school mass shooting tend to get the most media attention, Bryant says the vast majority of gun deaths occur on city streets among people using stolen handguns. While 247 Americans have died in mass shootings so far this year, nearly 8,400 have died in gun-involved homicides and murders. Another 10,428 people have taken their own lives using a firearm. Yet Bryant says the NRA-fueled myth of a good guy with a gun being the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun continues to persist in the U.S.

“A lot of the gun rights folks are very responsible. Others do everything they can to strongly avoid having any responsibility for a solution,” says Bryant. “That’s bothersome because… everybody has to help this.”

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Season 28 Episodes

Discussing New Developments in the COVID-19 Pandemic

S28 E84 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 6/20/22

Reducing Opioid Addiction Rates in Kentucky

S28 E83 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 6/13/22

Mass Shootings and Gun Laws

S28 E82 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 6/6/22

Discussing the Rise in Gas Prices and Inflation

S28 E81 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 5/23/22

Previewing Kentucky's 2022 Primary Election

S28 E80 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 5/16/22

Third Congressional District Democratic Primary

S28 E79 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 5/9/22

Candidates in the 2022 Primary Election: Part Two

S28 E78 Length 58:33 Premiere Date 5/2/22

Candidates in the 2022 Primary Election: Part One

S28 E77 Length 58:40 Premiere Date 4/25/22

Lawmakers Review the 2022 General Assembly

S28 E76 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 4/18/22

Recap of the 2022 Legislative Session

S28 E75 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 4/11/22

Public Assistance and Jobless Benefits

S28 E50 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 3/28/22

Abortion Legislation in the 2022 General Assembly

S28 E49 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 3/21/22

State Budget, Taxes, and Other 2022 General Assembly Topics

S28 E48 Length 57:42 Premiere Date 3/14/22

Critical Race Theory and Approaches to Teaching History

S28 E47 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 2/28/22

2022 Legislative Session at the Midpoint

S28 E46 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 2/21/22

Name, Image and Likeness Compensation

S28 E45 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 2/14/22

Child Abuse and Neglect

S28 E43 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 2/7/22

Debating School Choice in Kentucky

S28 E42 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 2/1/22

Debating Provisions in the Proposed State Budget

S28 E41 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 1/24/22

Redistricting, State Budget, and Other Legislative Issues

S28 E40 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 1/10/22

Discussing Legislative Goals for the 2022 General Assembly

S28 E39 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 1/3/22

City and County Issues

S28 E38 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 12/13/21

Previewing the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly

S28 E37 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 12/6/21

Compensating College Athletes: Name, Image and Likeness

S28 E36 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/22/21

Trends in State and National Politics

S28 E35 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 11/15/21

Abortion Rights and Restrictions

S28 E34 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/8/21

Kentucky's Social Services System

S28 E33 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/1/21

School Choice in the Commonwealth

S28 E32 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/25/21

Historical Horse Racing: A Growing Pastime in Kentucky

S28 E31 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/11/21

New Developments and the Unknowns of COVID-19

S28 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/4/21

COVID and the Classroom

S28 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 9/27/21

Remembering 9/11, 20 Years Later

S28 E28 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 9/13/21

Kentucky's Response to COVID-19

S28 E27 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 8/30/21

Discussing the Surge of COVID-19 Cases in Kentucky

S28 E26 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 8/23/21

Fancy Farm Preview and State Politics

S28 E25 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 8/2/21

Back-To-School Issues in Kentucky

S28 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 7/26/21

Childcare Challenges

S28 E23 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 7/19/21

The Urban-Rural Divide in Kentucky

S28 E22 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 7/12/21

Work Shifts: Kentucky's Labor Shortage and Hiring Challenges

S28 E21 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 6/28/21

Public Infrastructure: What Kentucky Needs

S28 E19 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 6/21/21

Debating Critical Race Theory

S28 E18 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 6/14/21

Kentucky's Rebound From COVID-19

S28 E17 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 6/7/21

Jobs and the Economy

S28 E16 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 5/17/21

The Future of Policing in America

S28 E15 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 5/10/21

President Biden's First 100 Days

S28 E14 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 5/3/21

Mass Shootings and Gun Laws

S28 E13 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 4/26/21

Voting Rights and Election Laws

S28 E12 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 4/20/21

The 2021 General Assembly: Debating Major Legislation

S28 E11 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 4/12/21

Wrapping Up the 2021 General Assembly

S28 E10 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 3/29/21

School Choice in Kentucky

S28 E9 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 3/22/21

No-Knock Warrants

S28 E8 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 3/15/21

Proposed Legislation to Modify Kentucky Teachers' Pensions

S28 E6 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 2/22/21

Debating Historical Horse Racing Legislation

S28 E5 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 2/8/21

New Lawmakers in the 2021 Kentucky General Assembly

S28 E4 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 2/1/21

A Nation Divided

S28 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 1/18/21

Recapping the Start of the 2021 General Assembly

S28 E2 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 1/11/21

Previewing the 2021 General Assembly

S28 E1 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 1/4/21

About

Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, is a public affairs discussion program broadcasted live on Monday nights at 8/7c on KET and KET.org/live.

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Kentucky Tonightwas awarded a 1997 regional Emmy by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The series was also honored with a 1995 regional Emmy nomination.

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