Kentucky lawmakers, gun violence survivors discuss red flag law issue

A group of lawmakers hope a red flag law is on the table for Kentucky's general assembly in...
A group of lawmakers hope a red flag law is on the table for Kentucky's general assembly in 2020. (WKYT)(WKYT)
Published: Nov. 22, 2019 at 5:02 PM EST
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A group of Kentucky lawmakers heard testimony concerning emergency risk protection orders on Friday in Frankfort.

Emergency risk protection orders are also known as red flag laws. The purpose of the law is to prevent someone who is considered to be a safety threat from buying or possessing firearms until their mental state can be assessed, or the issue can be resolved.

Kirsten Russell shared her story during the interim committee meeting. She hopes it leads to change.

Less than two years ago, she says her brother shot and killed her mother.

"There were certainly warning signs that my brother was not well," Russell said. "Since returning from the navy, he was a different person."

Russell says her family had no options to keep her brother from potentially harming himself or others.

"My parents' request for a mental inquest warrant was denied. We were stuck, and he kept getting worse. But he was able to buy multiple firearms because he was a law-abiding citizen," Russell.

This is a situation where an emergency protection order or red flag laws would come into play.

Senator Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, and Senator Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, are still finalizing the language for the draft of this bill.

It would allow law enforcement and potentially immediate family to petition the court for an order restricting access to firearms for someone that they believe is a danger to themselves or others.

"It's a temporary time out. It's not taking anything away from someone," said Sen. McGarvey.

Whitney Austin survived being shot 12 times at the Fifth Third Bank building in downtown Cincinnati.

"What do you do when you can't make sense of the gift you've been given? For me, there was one answer - fight. Fight to protect others," Austin said.

Austin believes a red flaw law potentially could have prevented her situation.

After the order is issued, there would then be a series of hearings in front of a judge. Many proponents of Second Amendment rights are for this measure; however, some believe it infringes on their constitutional rights.

A representative with the National Rifle Association also testified at the hearing. He explained their stance on the proposal, "What we are trying to do here is legislate morality ... it is impossible and we cannot do it."

Mark Barden of Sandy Hook Promise was in the crowd showing support for the measure. Barden's son was killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. "One of the things I do lay awake at night thinking about and I will always constantly think about is how this could have been prevented. We do know a constant theme we keep hearing and that is that there are warning signs. People do talk about it before they take someone else's life or their own life. That is an opportunity to prevent these tragedies," explained Barden

Sen. McGarvey says he believes this measure will get a hearing during the 2020 General Assembly.