Legislative Update 4/15/2023

Hello friends,
While many of us are still reeling and recovering from what some writers have described as a particularly “cruel” legislative session, those of us here in Louisville began this week to the devastating news of a mass shooting in our community.    The shooting was devastating for people across the city.  I honor the lives lost, the fast response of LMPD officers, and the way our community has come together to grieve over the past week.  

The individual loss of life is a personal tragedy for the families and friends of the victims, and for our community as a whole.  The shooting itself – the 146th mass shooting in the US in 2023 – is yet another expression of the uniquely American public health crisis of gun violence.   As I write this, there have already been nine mass shootings in this country since Monday’s shooting in downtown Louisville. 

Here’s something else I can’t get out of my mind: the knowledge that gun violence in our city and across our state is so prevalent that yesterday’s injuries were barely a blip on the screen for our beleaguered healthcare providers.  UofL Health’s Dr. Jason Smith confirms it in his heartbreakingly honest remarks. The trauma and exhaustion from serving on the front lines of the gun violence pandemic are evident in Dr. Smith’s plea for policy makers to “do something.” 

Dr. Smith, I’ve heard you loud and clear, and I’m listening to all of you who’ve contacted me to address this epidemic with policy solutions.  I’m one of the Louisville Democratic lawmakers who signed on to our statement pledging to take action, and my record on sensible gun safety reforms is clear and strong.  Since serving in Frankfort, I’ve sponsored and co-sponsored bills for the kind of commonsense gun reforms that have been effective in other states, and that the vast majority of Kentuckians want.  These includes a “red flag” bill, or extreme risk protective order, to temporarily remove firearms from individuals at risk for harming self or other,  and a bill to allow individuals to place themselves on a voluntary do-not-sell-firearms list.  I’ve supported legislation that would allow Louisville and other municipalities to establish local gun safety ordinances, to require safe storage of firearms, to shore up background checks and waiting periods, and other commonsense reforms. 

Meanwhile, the General Assembly’s supermajority has failed even to assign any of these public safety measures to committees, while instead enacting dangerous laws promoted by the gun lobby, including one passed in 2019 to do away with training or permits for concealed carry, and a law passed just this year to make Kentucky a “Second Amendment sanctuary state” that would prohibit Kentucky  from enforcing federal gun regulations.  Another bill that would have banned gun-free zones on college campuses passed out of committee, although it stopped short of coming to the House for a full vote.  

These reckless actions can no longer be acceptable to any of us.  Kentuckians must continue to insist on a platform of change.  We can’t afford to be complacent about backward gun laws that endanger not only Kentuckians, but people in surrounding states whose lives are endangered by guns obtained in Kentucky.  Lives are literally at stake, and we must demand changes at the federal, state, and local levels.  The time is now for Kentucky’s supermajority to “do something” to protect us from gun violence, and  I remain committed to working with anyone who is willing to work in the best interests of Kentucky and Kentuckians.   

Mental Health Resources
Gun violence in our community can have a profound effect on our sense of safety and security, often creating anxiety, depression, and other mental health symptoms.  Here are some words of wisdom from several Kentucky mental health experts. The National Suicide and Crisis Hotline can be reached by calling 988.  In a local response to Monday’s shootings, Humana and the Humana Foundation announced an investment to bolster mental health resources in Louisville and helped establish a Community Crisis Support Line.  The line should be open 24/7 to anyone in the community and can be reached at 877-757-7587. By calling, individuals will receive professional emotional support and/or referral to community resources.

In the Media
Back to the cruelty of this year’s legislative session, here’s my op ed opposing SB150. (And here is a link to a paywall-free version.)  I submitted this piece prior to SB150 being vetoed, and having that veto overridden by the legislative super-majority.  SB150, dubbed the “worst anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ+ bill in the country” by many civil rights advocates, is now the law in Kentucky.  
Contact me…
While this year’s legislative session has come to a close, we will be resuming interim committee meetings in June.  You can reach me by responding to this message, at my official email:  Lisa.Willner@lrc.ky.gov , or by calling my Frankfort office and leaving a message for me at 502-564-8100. 
In community,