The Fight for a Red Flag Law and Why it is Needed

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A couple of Kentucky state lawmakers are working on a bill to set up a so-called Red Flag law in Kentucky.

The law would create what’s known as an Extreme Risk Protection Order, effectively allowing law enforcement to confiscate a dangerous person’s weapons.

Kirsten Russell of Louisville lost her mother last year after her brother with a history of mental illness shot and killed her.

Russell testified to lawmakers on the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary Friday in support of a Red Flag law she believes would have kept her brother away from weapons.

“I wish my being here today could change the outcome of my story. It won’t,” Russell said through tears. “My mom’s gone when she shouldn’t be. But what I do hope for is this: That our story will help make a difference for someone else.”

Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, and State Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, are the ones working on a Red Flag law.

Sen. McGarvey, Sen. Hornback, & Kirsten Russell

“People are in search of common-sense solutions that protect all of us while also protecting rights,” McGarvey said. “That’s what this bill does.”

Hornback said he thinks enough Republicans will support the idea.

“We’ve got a retreat coming up in December. I think we’ll have a close enough version of the draft then so we’ll present it then, and I think there will be a lot of support,” Hornback said.

17 states and the District of Columbia already have Red Flag laws on the books. That includes Indiana, who was one of the first states to pass a Red Flag law in 2005.

Clark County, Indiana prosecutor Jeremy Mull said the flagging of a potentially dangerous individual goes through police, prosecutors and a judge before authorities confiscate someone’s weapons.

“There’s essentially three levels of review in that law and again, (it) has withstood constitutional muster,” Mull said.

Republican committee members are split on the issue.

State Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, said it’ll impede on gun owners’ rights.

Russell Testifies Before the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary

 

“The bottom line in all that we’ve heard today is that this proposal seeks to confiscate firearms from citizens who have not committed a crime,” Maddox said.

State Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, represents Marshall County, where two teens died in a high school shooting in January 2018.

He said something needs to change.

“If we don’t do something, we’re all responsible if this continues. We all take responsibility for it,” Carroll said. “I don’t care what side you’re on. You’ve got to set aside your strong feelings and you’ve got to do what’s right to protect our kids and protect our families.”

McGarvey said he’ll have a bill ready for lawmakers to examine before 2020.