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Thoughts, prayers or legislation: Politicians respond to Louisville mass shooting

First responders outside Old National Bank on Monday April 10, 2023.
Ryan Van Velzer
First responders outside Old National Bank on Monday April 10, 2023.

Some leading elected officials in Kentucky shared thoughts and prayers after the country’s latest mass shooting took place in downtown Louisville. Others called for solutions.

Shots erupted inside Old National Bank in downtown Louisville as commuters made their way into work on Monday morning. Five people died, including the suspected shooter, and nine people were injured during the incident.

By 11 a.m., Gov. Andy Beshear counted himself among those who had lost someone close to them in the mass shooting.

“I have a very close friend that didn’t make it today. And I have another close friend that didn’t either. And one who’s at the hospital that I hope is gonna make it through,” Beshear said.

The shooting was the latest mass casualty event to capture the nation’s attention. Last month in Nashville – about three hours south of Louisville – three children and three adults were killed by a shooter carrying multiple weapons.

The incident has already sparked calls for gun safety legislation, and warnings to not “politicize” the tragedy from gun rights advocates.

Democratic President Joe Biden said he is praying for the lives lost and called for legislation to curb gun violence.

“How many more Americans must die before Republicans in Congress will act to protect our communities? It’s long past time that we require safe storage of firearms. Require background checks for all gun sales. Eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability. We can and must do these things now,” Biden wrote.

Louisville has seen a spike in gun violence in the last few years: 173 people died in 2020; 188 people died in 2021; and 160 people died in 22. Before Monday’s shooting, 35 people in Louisville had lost their lives to gun violence.

Ahead of last year’s mayoral election, a shooter attacked Mayor Craig Greenberg’s campaign headquarters, grazing the mayor’s sweater with a bullet. At a press conference Monday morning, Greenberg said officers’ actions saved lives.

"We will find ways to love and support one another and the families and friends who have been directly impacted by these acts of gun violence,” he said.

The Louisville Metro Council released a statement saying it’s “shocked and saddened” by the shooting.

“We condemn this heinous act of violence and are committed to working together with the Mayor’s Administration and state officials to prevent future tragedies from happening in our city again,” the council wrote in a statement.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who lives in Louisville, said he was “devastated” by the news in a tweet, and is praying for the victims, their families and the citizens of his hometown.

As the Senate’s Republican leader, McConnell has been one of the principal gatekeepers for gun legislation in Congress. In the wake of mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas in 2019, McConnell punted the issue to then-President Donald Trump. In 2022, McConnell supported a limited gun safetymeasure that expanded background checks and encouraged states to develop “red flag” laws.

Kentucky’s GOP-led Legislature has been even more hesitant to pass gun safety policies. State law precludes local governments from restricting firearms. Bills that would require adults to lock up guns if they have kids in the house and allow courts to take away firearms from those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others have repeatedly failed to gain traction.

This year, Kentucky lawmakers approved a bill that would punish local law enforcement for enforcing any sort of federal restrictions on firearms, ammunition or accessories.

Democratic Congressman Morgan McGarvey called the incident heartbreaking and said “today is a dark day for our community.”

“These innocent lives were taken by another senseless act of gun violence, this time in Downtown Louisville. I am grateful to the brave officers at LMPD who quickly responded to the scene and no doubt saved lives,” McGarvey said.

Following a campaign event in Louisville, Republican candidate for governor Kelly Craft said people need to lift up victims and first responders, but dismissed any discussion of gun control.

“I don’t think today is an appropriate time to be talking about anything other than the loss of these lives and those who are in critical condition. I don’t think today’s the time to do that,” she said. “Every one of us owes a debt of gratitude to the law enforcement that arrived within three minutes, and how many lives they prevented from being injured and or killed. We just need to lift them up, lift up the families of those who were killed, and lift up the doctors who are taking care of those who are critically injured.”

State Sen. Gerald Neal, a Democrat from Louisville whose district includes the site of the shooting, said he is praying for “those affected by this senseless act of violence” and called for solutions.

“As we mourn and reflect on the devastating impact of today's events, we must come together as a community and society to find effective solutions in preventing the continuing scourge of gun violence. We can do more and have an obligation to do more to prevent such tragedies from happening again. We must do all that we can to take effective steps to ensure a safer community,” Neal wrote.

Danielle Kaye contributed to this report.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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