Politics

Kentucky legislators have introduced 24 gun-related bills this session — some to restrict firearms, and some to expand the places where people are allowed to carry them. But all but four of the measures remain stalled in committees.

One of the bills seeing some movement would give tougher punishments to convicted felons possessing firearms, and has the Louisville Metro Police Department’s support.

Per Kentucky law, convicted felons found in the possession of a firearm are charged with a Class D felony — unless it’s a handgun, in which case it’s a Class C felony. Senate Bill 210 would allow a stricter sentence if a convicted felon uses a firearm to commit a crime — they could be jailed for up to 20 years.

Maj. William Hibbs, who commands LMPD’s Ninth Mobile Division, said this bill addresses a recurring problem. Hibbs said his division is encountering more convicted felons with firearms, which he said can be purchased through criminal networks.

“These are people who’ve been told by the courts, ‘Don’t ever possess a weapon ever again. You’re not lawfully allowed to carry a weapon ever again.’ But they continue to do it,” he said. “And they’re using those weapons in violent crime. That’s where we work every day, and we see it every day. And we’re apprehending the same individuals over and over.”

Hibbs said the measure could help deter overall crime in Louisville.

But Rebecca DiLoreto, a legislative agent for the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said without an amendment offered by Democratic Sen. Ray Jones II to clarify that a gun must be used to commit a crime in order for felons to be given harsher punishments, the bill would be very problematic.

“Public safety is always a concern, but if you don’t have the amendment that had been proffered by Senator Jones, what you have is a very sweeping gun control bill,” she said. “If people feel unsafe for their lives and that’s why they carry guns, it won’t matter that we have this kind of law. We will just lock some of those people up longer.”

The bill cleared Kentucky’s Senate unanimously Wednesday, and now goes to the House for review.

Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.