Politics

Kentucky’s political leaders responded to Thursday’s shootings in Dallas, Texas with grief, sympathy and a hint of the debates to come on gun control and police-involved violence.

On Friday, many vigils and moments of silence were observed across the state. Friday morning, police cruisers across Lexington pulled over and turned on their lights for one minute. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer held a vigil during which he said “supporting police and communities of color are not mutually exclusive.”

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Republican, called the attacks “unconscionable.”

“This is a cruel reminder that law enforcement officials selflessly put themselves in harm’s way day in and day out to keep our communities safe,” McConnell said. “We extend our hearts to the wounded, to the families and loved ones left behind, to the entire law enforcement community, and to a nation that has experienced much suffering and heartbreak over the course of a difficult week.”

The Dallas shootings were reportedly in response to the shooting deaths of African Americans at the hands of police officers over the past days.

“Now is the time to come together as a nation, not pull further apart, and let justice and healing be our guide,” McConnell said.

The attack took place during what started as a peaceful rally in downtown Dallas protesting the most recent police shootings of African American men in Minnesota and Louisiana.

The recent shootings have pitted competing movements of those criticizing violence against African Americans and animosity towards law enforcement officers.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth said he was “shocked and saddened” by the event.

“[S]enseless killings have no place in our nation today, nor does the hatred that fuels them. I know the anger and anguish felt — whether for the killing of police officers in the line of duty or innocent black men in the streets — is very real. But to answer the killing of one innocent with the killing of another only serves to escalate our national epidemic of violence. We must come together to promote peace in our hearts and on our streets.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul called the attack a “truly horrific and senseless act.”

“Twelve officers were shot and five killed while doing their job protecting the community, the demonstrators, and freedom of speech,” Paul said in a Facebook post. “My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the Dallas officers.”

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray issued a statement saying “these are difficult and troubling times in our country.”

“[I]t’s safe to say that we must have a national conversation about hate of all kinds and the policies we have that allow that hate to become deadly,” said Gray, who’s also running for U.S. Senate as a Democrat against Paul. “We can’t allow what we’ve seen in Dallas, Minneapolis and Baton Rouge to define us as a country. We owe it to everyone to come together as a nation to address these problems.”

Gray has criticized Paul of doing too little to limit gun violence. Paul voted against a policy that would have blocked those on the terrorist watch list from buying guns.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.