While Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has refrained from using the murder of five people at Louisville’s Old National Bank to call for new gun control restrictions, at least for now, Louisville’s mayor isn’t shying away from pointing to the horrific crime to demand new and unspecified powers to crack down on legal gun owners.
At a press conference on Tuesday Mayor Craig Greenberg declared its time for state lawmakers to undo Kentucky’s firearm preemption law, which sets a uniform body of gun laws across the state, and instead allow cities like Louisville to impose their own gun control measures.
“Yesterday’s tragedy brings us to 40 people who’ve been shot to death this year in our city. That level of gun violence is horrific,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg campaigned on tackling gun violence, and just a month ago, made good on one promise to skirt a Kentucky law that requires all confiscated weapons be sent to state police to be auctioned off. Greenberg instructed police in the city to remove the firing pin from all weapons before sending them, making them at least temporarily inoperable.
“It’s time to change this law,” Greenberg said in the press conference. “Let us destroy those guns that killed our friends and neighbors.”
Greenberg pleaded with the state to allow the people of Louisville make their own decisions about reducing gun violence. He decried partisan arguments over gun control and said the city would be working on long-term solutions, including mental health care initiatives.
But Greenberg said those aren’t enough.
“We need short-term action to end this gun violence epidemic now, so fewer people die in our streets, banks, schools and churches,” Greenberg said.
It’s audacious of Greenberg to “decry partisan arguments over gun control” while making a partisan argument in favor of gun control, especially one that was so light on specific policy proposals. What new gun control laws does Greenberg want to see in place, and how would they have prevented Monday’s murders given that the killer didn’t have a criminal record and wasn’t prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm under both state and federal law?
I’m seeing a lot of news stories about Greenberg’s “impassioned plea for gun control” that include his calls for “short term action”, but fail to note that the mayor himself couldn’t offer any policy proposal that would have stopped this attack from taking place. The mayor said he had two requests for Kentucky lawmakers; repealing the state’s firearm preemption law and changing the state law that requires firearms seized by police to be sold at auction.
Greenberg spoke vaguely about “meaningful action”, but couldn’t articulate what that would actually look like in practice. He wants Louisville to be able to pass its own “common sense” gun laws, but failed to offer even one ordinance that would be a substantive improvement over existing state law.
In truth, local ordinances don’t do much, and may even provide prosecutors with a handy misdemeanor to offer as plea bargain bait to defendants who could face more serious charges. Take Columbus, Ohio, for instance, where the city council recently enacted a misdemeanor gun storage measure ostensibly meant to protect kids. City Attorney Zack Klein recently announced that the ordinance has been put to use, with a Columbus resident pleading guilty to two counts of negligent storage of a firearm and one count of child endangerment; the latter already a crime under Ohio law. 28-year-old Matthew Rivas was sentenced to ten days in jail and two years probation after his young child grabbed a gun wedged between two couch cushions and pulled the trigger. Thankfully no one was seriously injured in the incident, but while Klein is touting the supposed effects of the new law he neglected to mention that under Ohio law it’s already a fifth-degree felony to “furnish a firearm to a person who is under eighteen years of age… except for lawful hunting, sporting, or educational purposes.” Rather than getting tough on Rivas, thanks to Columbus’s local ordinance (which is being challenged in court as a violation of Ohio’s preemption law) he caught a lucky break.
Or take Denver, Colorado, which was largely exempt from the state’s preemption law even before it was repealed by Democrats in 2021. The year after repeal took effect, Denver recorded the highest number of homicides in 40 years; more evidence that repealing preemption isn’t the magic solution Greenberg claims it to be.
Despite his vagueness, if Greenberg got his way I’m sure that he’d have no shortage of specific gun control bills that he’d love to enact into law. I just don’t think they’d have any impact on violent criminals who are already committing felony offenses, much less those twisted individuals who are committed to carrying out their obsessive schemes to target innocent victims. If the mayor’s looking for a short-term action that can get real results, he’d be better off promoting existing programs that target repeat, violent offenders instead of trying to turn the city’s law-abiding gun owners into criminals themselves.