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Bill banning 'gun-free zones' on college campuses fails to advance in Ky. Legislature

Representative Savannah Maddox speaks behind a lectern at the Fancy Farm Picnic in western Kentucky.
Roberto Roldan
/
LPM
Kentucky Rep. Savannah Maddox campaigns for the 2023 GOP gubernatorial nomination during Fancy Farm 2022.

A bill banning "gun-free zones" on public college campuses did not advance in the Kentucky Legislature. The proposal did not have enough votes to pass the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

Republican Rep. Savannah Maddox’s proposal would have prevented public colleges from passing any policies that bar people 21 and older from carrying a concealed firearm on campuses.

House Bill 542 by Maddox was initially a measure that offered small changes to a workforce policy. She added the new language last week. It’s what’s known as a shell bill, which starts out as something often non-controversial and is then amended late in the session with less time for public input.

It passed out of the House Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection last week but did not have enough votes to pass the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

Maddox argued that allowing people to carry concealed firearms would make campuses safer.

But research shows that policies that allow guns to be carried on campuses don’t prevent mass shootings, and they can lead to more shootings, homicides and suicides.

The bill was unanimously opposed by the presidents of Kentucky’s public universities and all campus police chiefs.

Maddox tweeted it was a “sad day” and that she was disappointed the bill did not advance.

In the tweet, she said she planned on making several changes such as permit requirements to concealed carry on campus and a carve-out for private institutions, university hospitals and events. She also said it would include guidelines for safe storage of weapons.

The northern Kentucky representative filed four gun-related bills this session. She previously sponsored Kentucky’s 2019 law allowing people to carry concealed weapons without a license or training. She gained prominence during protests to COVID-19 pandemic safety policies and was a candidate in the 2023 race for governor, but withdrew in December.

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.