Louisville Metro Government departments are urging gun owners to use common sense now that firearms are allowed in city-owned buildings.
The General Assembly passed a state law forbidding cities from enacting stricter gun laws than the state in 2012, and the Metro Council changed its definition of deadly weapons last week as a result.
Under the new provisions taking effect this month, residents are allowed to openly carry a firearm in Metro facilities such as the mayor’s office and City Hall, as well as libraries, parks and the Louisville Zoo.
The Jefferson county attorney told The Courier-Journal he is concerned about Metro employee’s safety, but Louisville Free Public Library Director Craig Buthod told WFPL that he expects most residents will keep their guns at home.
“I think most people have better sense than to carry a gun into the library. A library is a place that’s always got children and young moms trying to keep the peace. And I don’t think anybody’s going to want to bring a gun into the library. I think it’s something that we’ll deal with, but I don’t think it’s something we’ll deal with more than once a year,” he says.
Buthod says the library has changed its policy to comply with the state mandate and that no additional security has been requested.
The city’s library system is estimated to have about 10,000 visitors daily, and some branches have an armed guard on duty. But others have questioned if public spaces such as the city’s parks are as secure and have voiced concern about residents bringing their firearms.
“I think it’s reasonable to expect that some citizens will have concerns with this,” says Metro Parks spokeswoman Julie Kredens. “But we’re hoping that responsible gun owners are going to use a common sense approach as far as when and where it’s appropriate to carry firearms regardless of whether or not they’re in their rights under law.”
The law still allows for cities to regulate other weapons, and it continues to bar things such as knives and nightsticks from Metro buildings. Guns are still banned in Jefferson County jails, courts and schools, and private businesses can prohibit firearms as well.
Those in favor of the changes point out that the law passed overwhelmingly in the state legislature and that it upholds Kentucky resident’s constitutional rights. Gun rights groups have often argued that the lack of law-abiding residents with firearms is one of the reasons that mass shootings take place.
But that argument has not quelled concern amongst city lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
“In the past there has always been a concern that when it comes to certain issues government and as passionate as some people can be, the presence of a gun may intimidate people,” says Democratic caucus spokesman Tony Hyatt. “The council president is going to have to be more aware of the potential if a gun is present in council chambers. I don’t know if we’re going to have increased police presence but you may see us review things such as addresses to the council and who is speaking.”
Republican caucus spokesman Stephen Haag says GOP members were split on the state law, but those who objected realized that the city is an arm of state government and were forced to deal with it.
“I think in many cases people have already had these freedoms (in the state capital), and it hasn’t been an issue. And for some knowing that an area is not completely gun-free means people are less likely to act violently,” he says. “We have good security here at the council, and hopefully the common sense will take over and lead the way. If we have any hints or signs, we have Metro Police officers and security personnel here during our regular meetings.”
State Rep. Robert Damron, D-Nicholasville, who introduced the bill, has told other media outlets that his office has received several complaints from residents in Louisville and northern Kentucky.