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Over the past 10 years, Kentucky has made it easier to carry guns – and statistics show more Kentuckians are carrying concealed firearms than ever before. Judging by one of the first few bills filed early for the 2015 session, it doesn’t look like the General Assembly will change direction on guns anytime soon. State Rep. Diane St. Onge, R-Lakeside Park, this month introduced one of the first bills for the 2015 session. It would prevent the federal government from restricting firearms in Kentucky. “I think the main push for concealed carry permits across the United States is increased due to the fact folks are concerned rightly their constitutional right to bear arms is increasingly being threatened,” St. Onge said. Congress has passed no new laws to restrict guns since President Barack Obama took office in 2009. During the past 10 years, the number of concealed-carry permits has risen from from 11,000 (issued in 2004) to 60,000 (issued in 2013), Kentucky State Police statistics show. That number doubled between 2012 and 2013 in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary. The birth of her twin son and daughter a year ago and regular coverage of school shootings in the news spurred Nikki and Adam Seibert of Edgewood to take concealed-carry courses. They also persuaded extended family members to take the courses. So long as people have the proper training, Nikki Seibert said she believes a gun makes her family safer. “If my kids are in a family member’s home, I want to know and be confident the people in my home are educated and know how to use the gun and keep it safe from people who shouldn’t have it.” That jibes with the experience of a local concealed-carry instructor. More women in the past two years are wanting to carry concealed weapons, said Dan Houston, who teaches in Florence. Since Newtown, Houston’s class went from 95 percent men to 50 percent men, he said. The General Assembly has passed numerous laws that loosened restrictions on gun ownership and concealment. They include allowing people to have a concealed gun in their cars and eliminating the six-month residency requirement for a concealed-carry license. Kentucky’s gun laws have ranked consistently as among the country’s most lenient, getting two points out of 100 from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The state earned a grade of F from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and ranked 43rd among U.S. states. State lawmakers say they have found loosening gun laws popular among their constituents. And the next session of the General Assembly will likely see more laws to prevent further regulation of guns, lawmakers said. “We’ve been tweaking the law to make it more convenient for the concealed carry-permit holder,” said Sen. John Schickel, R-Union. “I believe in the constitutional right to carry firearms, and I’m very skeptical of any government restriction on firearms. The law is operating very well.” As gun-friendly as Kentucky is, residents seem conflicted about gun laws. A Louisville Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll of 700 residents in January 2013, after the Newtown shootings, showed 56 percent favor stricter gun-control laws, but 65 percent said they believe guns protect law-abiding citizens more than they make society more dangerous. The Newtown shootings spurred some in Kentucky to call for more gun control. Pam Mangas, a mother of three from Lexington, joined the Kentucky chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense Across America. The organization this year fought a bill introduced by Schickel that would have allowed concealed carry-permit holders to bring a gun into a bar so long as the person doesn’t drink alcohol. “The gun lobby picks away at laws slowly every year,” Mangas said. Mangas said that, among the group’s chief concerns is that Kentucky law allows people to carry guns in many places so long as they’re not concealed. She recently saw someone carrying a gun at the barbershop where she took her son to get a haircut. “I don’t want children terrorized by the sight of guns,” Mangas said. “I don’t know who that guy is, if he’s passed a background check to get guns.” While the Newtown shootings spurred some to fight for more gun restrictions, it also spurred more people to carry a gun. Instructors of concealed-carry courses said attendance spiked after Newtown. The 300 people who enrolled in Tony Wheatley’s concealed -carry class in Louisville in the three months after the Newtown shootings equaled the total number of students in all of 2012. “The biggest increase is in teachers, school administrators and bus drivers,” said Wheatley. “They are wanting to protect themselves.” Said Houston, the instructor in Florence: “I ask my students why they’re there, and one of the big answers is, ‘We want to do it before our right is taken away from us.’ “The other answer is that this world is just not a pretty place.” ⬛
Ky. loosens gun laws
as carry permits spike
William Wadsworth, 19, of Villa Hills practices with a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol on the range at Shooter’s Supply and Range in Independence. He said he intends to get a concealed-carry permit when he turns 21. (Photo: The Enquirer/Patrick Reddy )
By Scott Wartman, email@example.com 10:57 p.m. EDT June 20, 2014Originally printed in “The Kentucky ENQUIRER”Reprinted here with permission of the Author.