Thursday, March 30, 2000

Ky. House passes firearms bill

Amended measure would allow guns in church

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — A bill that would let anyone with a permit take a concealed deadly weapon to church won final passage Wednesday in a sharply divided Kentucky House.

        The vote was 53-31, with 16 House members not voting. The legislation, which began as an anti-gun bill, had already passed both chambers but needed a second vote to approve a technical amendment.

        Rep. Eleanor Jordan, D-Louisville, introduced the bill to allow police departments, particularly in Louisville and Lexington, to destroy confiscated weapons instead of having to auction them.

        Rep. J.R. Gray, D-Benton, got the bill amended over Ms. Jordan's objections to do the opposite. The amendment set a 90-day deadline for guns to be handed over to Kentucky State Police for auction.

        Mr. Gray — not Ms. Jordan — then presented the bill to a Senate committee, which added the guns-in-church provision, which broadened a 1998 law that allowed only pastors or church officers to carry concealed weapons in church. Ms. Jordan angrily had her name taken off the bill, and Mr. Gray had himself listed as its sponsor.

        House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark said Wednesday that the bill had been “hijacked in the Senate.” No gun opponent himself, Mr. Clark called for the bill's defeat for the sake of “the integrity of the process.”

        Another critic, Rep. Kathy Stein of Lexington, said the National Rifle Association was “crowing about the successes they have had with this General Assembly.”

        “It's clear the NRA has not only the Senate but this body in their pocket,” Ms. Stein said.

        Mr. Gray denied he had done anything “unseemly.” The bill had taken its normal course to the Senate, and he had gone to testify for it as any other legislator had a right to do, Mr. Gray said.

        “There's nothing been done behind anybody's back,” Mr. Gray said. “I only followed the rules of the legislature.”

        Mr. Clark and the House's other Democratic leaders were split on the bill. Mr. Clark voted against it, as did Majority Caucus Chairman Jim Callahan, D-Wilder.

        Speaker Jody Richards of Bowling Green and Majority Leader Greg Stumbo of Prestonsburg voted for the bill. Majority Whip Joe Barrows of Versailles did not vote.


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