Update on Gun Control Laws
Update on Gun Control Laws
Lately, everyone is talking about gun control, and unfortunately, some of what you may be hearing is not an accurate statement on the law in Kentucky. As city officials, you must understand the laws that apply at the local level and how to comply with them. Don’t get overwhelmed by information overload. Get control by reviewing the FAQs below.
Q: Did HB 500 authorize the open carry of weapons in city buildings?
Some news outlets have recently reported that HB 500, passed in the 2012 Kentucky legislative session, allowed the open carry of weapons in city buildings. This is incorrect. Since 1891, the Kentucky Constitution has prohibited cities from banning the open carry of deadly weapons anywhere on city property.
Section 1 of the Kentucky Constitution is similar to the federal Constitution, giving citizens “the right to bear arms in defense of themselves and of the State, subject to the power of the General Assembly to enact laws to prevent persons from carrying concealed weapons.” Notice the use of the word “concealed.” This means that while the Kentucky General Assembly has the power to enact laws relating to concealed weapons, it has no authority to enact laws relating to openly carried weapons. Similarly, cities have no power to regulate the open carry of weapons, and only have as much power to regulate concealed weapons as the General Assembly has decided to grant to them.
So cities cannot prohibit the open carrying of weapons on city property or anywhere else. This has always been the law, and HB 500 did nothing to change this.
Q: Then what did HB 500 actually do?
A: It amended KRS 65.870, a law that already prohibited most city gun control regulations, to expand and clarify what regulation is prohibited, which units of local government fall under the statutory requirements, and the consequences of breaking the law. Here is exactly what the statute requires:
- Cities and other entities covered by the law are prohibited from regulating the manufacture, sale, purchase, taxation, transfer, ownership, possession, carrying, storage, or transportation of firearms, ammunition, components of firearms, components of ammunition, firearms accessories, or combination of any of the above.
- Any existing or future executive or legislative action in the prohibited areas is declared void and unenforceable.
- This prohibition applies to cities, counties, urban county governments, consolidated local governments, and all local government agencies, including special districts, government boards and commissions, and quasi-public agencies such as airport boards, transit authorities and housing authorities.
- The legislature set a deadline of January 12, 2013 for local governments and their agencies to repeal or amend any ordinances or regulations that did not comply with the statute.
- Any organization or person that is adversely affected by an ordinance or action that violates HB 500 may file suit to enjoin the violation.
- Any public servant who violates the provisions of HB 500 is subject to prosecution for official misconduct.
Q: How does this actually affect city gun regulation? What can we do? What can we NOT do?
A: Cities should use HB 500 as a starting point and reminder for understanding what is prohibited and the consequences of having ordinances or regulations that violate the law. It is very important to note, however, that HB 500 did not affect longstanding laws that apply to cities and carve out exceptions to the general prohibition on local gun control. Below is a summary of general laws on gun control that apply to cities. Again, none of these rules are new – all cities should already be in compliance.
- Due to the federal and state constitutional right to bear arms, Kentucky cities can only regulate firearms in very limited circumstances specifically authorized by state statutes or case law.
- A city can enact regulations or ordinances prohibiting or limiting the carrying of concealed deadly weapons in buildings or portions of buildings owned, leased, or controlled by that city, such as city hall or council chambers. The ordinance must contain an exception for any building used for public housing, highway rest areas, firing ranges, and private dwellings, even though the city owns, leases or controls the building.
- A city cannot prohibit or limit concealed deadly weapons on grounds outside of the actual building, such as park grounds.
- A city cannot prohibit citizens from openly carrying deadly weapons anywhere on city property.
- A city cannot impose criminal penalties for violating a concealed weapon ordinance.
- A city can impose penalties that deny access to the building or require the person to leave the building, and city employees who violate the concealed weapon ordinance can be subjected to disciplinary measures.
- If a city enacts a concealed weapon ordinance, the city must post clearly identified signs at the entrance to the restricted area.
- A city can regulate discharge of firearms within the city limits.
- A city cannot use zoning ordinances to prohibit certain federally licensed firearms businesses from locating within the city.
- A city cannot seize or revoke the right to carry a deadly weapon if that weapon is legally possessed, even in times of emergency or disaster.
- With limited exceptions, even citizens licensed to carry a concealed weapon cannot carry the weapon into certain buildings, such as police stations, jails, courthouses, meetings of city governing bodies (except members of the bodies themselves), schools and airports.
Q: What was the January 12 deadline information related to deadly weapons in KLC Direct Line and in the news?
A: The legislature set a deadline of January 12, 2013 for local governments and their agencies to repeal or amend any ordinances or regulations that did not comply with HB 500.
- If your city did not have any ordinances or regulations that conflicted with the laws discussed above, you do not need to take any action.
- If you have already repealed or amended such ordinances or regulations, then you are in compliance and do not need to take any further action.
- If your city still has ordinances or regulations that ban the open carry of deadly weapons anywhere on city property, or ban concealed weapons in a manner other than authorized by law, please note these are NOT enforceable and need to be amended or repealed as soon as possible.
Q: What's the Bottom Line?
A: Bottom line: State and local governments are generally prohibited from regulating the open carry of deadly weapons. This has always been the law, and has not changed recently, through HB 500 or any other law. The state can make, and has made, laws governing regulation of concealed weapons. Cities are generally prohibited from regulating concealed weapons as well as openly carried weapons, except as described above. HB 500 simply broadens the coverage of this prohibition on local gun control and establishes clear penalties for violating the law.
Review your local ordinances in conjunction with HB 500 and the list of general gun control laws above.
If you have questions, please discuss them with your city attorney or contact the KLC Legal Department at 800-876-4552.