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Fight For Local Gun Control Not On Mayor's Agenda

Creative Commons

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer isn't planning to push state lawmakers for the ability to adopt local gun control measures.

"We're not going to just chase after windmills over things that aren't going to happen," he said Wednesday.

Local governments across Kentucky are currently barred from adopting any type of law regulating guns or gun accessories. Kentucky state lawmakers passed a bill prohibiting such laws in 2012.

Fischer spoke with reporters Wednesday via conference call from Washington, D.C., where he joined Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad and other city officials tasked with addressing violence in the city. The group convened in the nation's capital for a series of meetings related to gun violence, police and public safety.

Gun violence is spiking in Louisville this year. Shootings are up about 40 percent compared with this time last year, which ended with the highest homicide count in nearly four decades.

City and community leaders have condemned the violence, but the response hasn't seemed to have had much effect.

At a news conference following a shooting during the annual Pegasus Parade earlier this month, Fischer said the country's streets are "awash in guns."

"That is a problem that must be addressed," he said.

Yet it's unclear just how he and other city officials will address the issue of gun violence. On Wednesday, he stressed that the city's inability to enact local gun laws isn't likely to change.

Some state lawmakers from Louisville agree.

Rep. Darryl Owens, a Democrat representing District 43, said the gun lobby is a strong force within the state legislature.

"Unless there is a significant change in the makeup of the legislature, the only thing possible is what the (National Rifle Association) wants," he said.

Owens was one of eight state House members who voted against the 2012 bill. He said cities struggling with gun violence effectively are powerless to address the issue. The most effective method for ending gun violence is to enact gun control laws, he said.

"Which they can't do because the state has preempted that," Owens said. "It's unfortunate, you're boxed."

But Rep. Steve Riggs, a Democrat representing Louisville's District 31, said additional gun control measures would only affect legal gun owners, not people using guns for violent crimes. Riggs is a co-chair of the House committee on local government and voted for the 2012 bill banning cities from adopting local gun control laws.

He said an overwhelming majority of state lawmakers don't trust local governments to uphold the Second Amendment. Because of that, it's unlikely cities, counties and urban-county governments will get the ability to enact laws relating to gun control.

"It's a more practical answer than it is an emotional answer," Riggs said. He said Fischer should spend his time on "things that make a bigger difference."

Yet some think Fischer should push for more local gun control rights.

Representative-elect Attica Scott, the winner of the District 41 primary, took to Twitter to blast Fischer Wednesday afternoon.

"Our city is neither healthy nor safe when gun violence is an almost every day reality. Mayor Fischer could at least act like that matters," she wrote.

Fischer said, "If there's an area for us to address these gun violence issues that's got a shot of getting through the General Assembly, we certainly will push those."

The mayor said more focus should be on enforcing existing laws, specifically those relating to background checks and laws keeping criminals, terrorists and the mentally ill from possessing guns.

"There has to be a willing constituency on both sides to get this type of work done," he said. "How can we respect the Second Amendment, but then also how can we respect people's ability to live without fear of being involved in some type of melee from gunshots."

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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