(Editor’s note: The National Rifle Association was particularly generous with favored Kentucky candidates during the most recent election cycle, donating a total of about $20,000 in five races. Fifth District Congressman Hal Rogers, a conservative Republican from Eastern Kentucky, received the largest NRA contribution in Kentucky at $6,500, according to the New York Times.)
In the aftermath of the Newtown School shooting, there’s a lot of talk about sensible gun regulations, which caused us at Insider Louisville to wonder where Kentucky’s political leaders and the General Assembly stand in relation to the National Rifle Association.
The answer: In bed together.
Last April, Free Republic, the ultra-conservative news website, and AmmoLand.com, a gun-rights group with ties to radical militias, posted this celebration of Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear signing three NRA-backed bills into law.
The laws not only gutted any restrictions on firearms, they prohibit Kentucky cities from enacting their own gun control ordinances:
Charlotte, NC –(Ammoland.com)- Yesterday, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear signed three NRA-backed bills into law: House Bill 484, concealed carry exemption; House Bill 500, strengthening current firearms preemption law; and House Bill 563, fraudulent firearms prevention. These laws will go into effect on July 11, 2012.
HB 484, sponsored by state Representative Will Coursey (D-6), expands the current concealed carry exemptions by allowing landowners and businessmen with a sole proprietorship to carry a handgun concealed without the necessity of a concealed carry permit.
HB 500, sponsored by state Representative Bob Damron (D-39), will strengthen the current firearms preemption statute by expanding it to other units of government and public agencies to help prevent attempts to circumvent current state firearms laws and prohibit cities and counties from passing ordinances that would be more restrictive than existing state laws. HB 500 mandates consistent statewide regulations pertaining to firearms and ammunition and prevents a rights-infringing patchwork of local ordinances.
HB 563, sponsored by state Representative Martha Jane King (D-16), will protect lawful firearm retailers from illegal gun sting operations such as those by anti-gun New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg has sent hired agents into other states to attempt illegal firearm purchases in an effort to blame federally licensed firearm retailers for gun crime in New York City and around the country.
In the November election, Kentucky voters even passed a referendum amending our constitution to the National Rifle Association’s liking.
Remember this odd little question on the ballot:
Are you in favor of amending the Kentucky constitution to state that the citizens of Kentucky have the personal right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, subject to laws and regulations that promote conservation and preserve the future of hunting and fishing, and to state that public hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife?
We know it was to the NRA’s liking, because of this advocacy statement on the NRA website:
Attention Kentucky! Vote YES on the Constitutional Right to Hunt & Fish!
This Constitutional Amendment will protect our hunting heritage from attacks initiated by well-funded anti-hunting activists who have assailed sportsmen throughout the country in recent years. In addition, it specifies that wildlife management decisions will be based on sound science, not the emotions of animal “rights” extremists. All Kentuckians need to vote YES on this constitutional amendment. This protection is essential to protect wildlife and promote conservation; efforts that sportsmen have spearheaded for generations. Don’t let animal “rights” radicals invade Kentucky and destroy the state’s diverse and flourishing wildlife populations!”
But we also know Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources is proud of NRA’s support for the amendment, because they brag about that detail.
From their taxpayer-financed web page:
Our department worked closely, during the 2011 General Assembly, with the sponsors of House Bill 1, which established the ability to have this ballot initiative during this election year. Through these efforts, KDFWR was able to insure the amendment will not inadvertently impact our ability to properly manage fish and wildlife resource in the Commonwealth.
This amendment is also supported by the League of Kentucky Sportsmen, the National Rifle Association, and countless other conservation organizations in the Commonwealth.
At least 15 other states already have added similar language to their constitutions that guarantees their citizens the right to hunt, fish, or harvest wildlife.
For the amendment to get before voters, legislators had to pass in it in both Kentucky Houses with a three-fifths majority. And boy did they ever.
HB1 had 68 sponsors. The final version of the bill passed the House 94-1 in March of 2011.
The one dissenting vote in the House was Louisville’s own Rep. Jim Wayne, with Rep. Joni Jenkins and Rep. Mary Lou Marzian being among the five legislators who did not vote on the measure. (Rep. Reggie Meeks had voted against an earlier version, but voted for the final bill.)
The measure passed 33-2 in the Senate.
The number of Kentucky voters who were in favor: 1,298,334. Not in favor: 238,320.
Since amendments to the constitution do not require the governor’s approval, the ratification was official on November 6, 2012 and became section 255(a) of our Commonwealth’s Constitution. The amendment was squeezed in between section 255, ratified in 1891 naming Frankfort as our state capitol, and section 256 which lays out extensive rules on procedures to ensure our constitution is not amended frequently without good cause.
Of the 138 members of the Kentucky General Assembly, 26 represent at least a voter or two in Louisville.
All but four of those legislators were up for election this year.
In that election, the majority, or 59 percent, of the Jefferson County delegation to Frankfort were endorsed by the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund.
Endorsed by NRA in 2012 Not Endorsed by NRA in 2012
Rep. Julie Raque Adams (R) Rep. Tom Burch (D)
Rep. Kevin D. Bratcher (R) Rep. Wade Hurt (D)
Rep. Larry Clark (D) Rep. Joni L. Jenkins (D)
Rep. Ron Crimm (R) Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (D)
Rep. Bob M. DeWeese (R) Rep. Reginald Meeks (D)
Rep. Dennis Horlander (D) Rep. Daryl T. Owens (D)
Rep. Charles W. Miller (D) Rep. Jim Wayne (D)
Rep. Michael Nemes (R) Sen. Gerald Neal (D)
Rep. David Osborne (R) Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D)
Rep. Steve Riggs (D)
Rep. Tom Riner (D)
Sen. Perry Clark (D)
Sen. Denise Harper Angel (D)
According to Votesmart.org, all the candidates listed who were endorsed by the NRA in 2012 had previously received a rating of “A” from the organization in either 2010 or 2008, except for Sen. Perry Clark who was given an “A+”.
The biggest observation we can take away from these endorsements: gun regulation within our Jefferson County delegation is not a partisan issue.
Arguably the hottest contested race in the local general election was the race between incumbent, ‘A+’-rated Sen. Perry Clark (D), and challenger Chris Thieneman (R).
In that race, the NRA endorsed the Democrat, Clark, who won 24,806 votes to Thieneman’s 17,536 votes.
Other incumbent Democrats endorsed by the NRA who were victorious over Republican opponents: Rep. Larry Clark (D), Rep. Charles W. Miller, and Rep. Steve Riggs (D).
(Sen. Clark, Rep. Clark, and Rep. Miller are also among the lawmakers who were named last spring for their allegiance to the ultra-conservative model-legislation action committee known as the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.)
So recapping, unless quite a few Kentucky lawmakers are willing to abandon their prior relationships with the NRA, it’s unlikely any gun regulation could get through Kentucky’s General Assembly.