Bill filed in Kentucky that would allow judges to temporarily take guns from those at risk of harming themselves or others

By Sarah Ladd
Kentucky Lantern

Admitting it faces a “tough uphill climb,” Republican state Sen. Whitney Westerfield filed a bill Jan. 25 that would allow judges to temporarily remove firearms from Kentuckians at risk of harming themselves or others.

“There is more support for it than you hear,” Westerfield said of his measure, which he calls the Crisis Aversion and Rights Retention Orders bill, or CARR.

Westerfield, of Christian County, said Senate Bill 13 is the “cleanest” version and comes after feedback from his colleagues during a December interim hearing before the Joint Committee on Judiciary.

Draft language of the bill says:

  • Law enforcement cannot enter a person’s home “or interior premises” to gather their guns unless that person needs and requests assistance in doing so.
  • Police must give a receipt to the respondent detailing what guns were taken.
  • While the CARR order is in effect, the respondent cannot possess or buy guns.
  • The court must tell the respondent that they are not being charged with a crime and that they have the right to rebuttal.

“We don’t want to take away guns from people who are law-abiding citizens,” Westerfield said Thursday to a supporter rally. “We want to step in temporarily to keep people safe. We don’t want it to be abused. We want to do something responsible, constitutional, to keep people safe. That’s what CARR does.”

The bill has four co-sponsors, all Democrats, led by Sen. David Yates of Louisville. He says judges who are entrusted with complicated child-custody situations can also be trusted to know when people can’t be trusted to have guns.

“This is not a gun-grabbing bill,” said Yates. “Public safety has got to be a top priority. And right now, we are in a crisis.”

The other Democratic sponsors are Sens. Carrie Chambers Armstrong and Denise Harper Angel of Louisville and Reginald Thomas of Lexington.

Sheila Schuster, a licensed psychologist and the executive director of the Kentucky Mental Health Coalition, previously told the Lantern that “People with a mental illness are 10 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than to be a perpetrator.”

She also said suicidal people taking their lives happens at an “astronomical percentage higher if there’s a gun within reach than if there’s not.”

The nonprofit Whitney Strong, which works to end gun violence, reports that a majority of gun deaths in Kentucky were suicide in 2021 — 534 compared to 364 homicides. That same year, there was a suicide by firearm every 16 hours in Kentucky, according to Whitney Strong data shared Thursday. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 988.

Westerfield called his bill “constitutionally sound” and said he hopes it gets a hearing this session. As of Friday, Jan. 26, the bill was still in the Senate Committee on Committees, made up of the chanber’s leaders. Westerfield is chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Previous Article
Next Article