New bill would temporarily remove guns from Kentuckians deemed immediate threat

Gun Rights

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — A new bill filed on Thursday would temporarily remove guns from Kentuckians who are deemed an immediate threat to themselves, or others.

The Crisis Aversion and Rights Retention bill, also known as CARR, was filed with Sen. Whitney Westerfield, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as lead sponsor.

In December 2023, he explained that the Uvalde shooting caused him to take a look at the issue. He believes Kentucky needs a way to intervene when someone is on the brink of a mental crisis.

“We need to have another tool that we don’t have today,” Westerfield explained in December. “Something not as substantial or severe as voluntary commitment, but also not as useless as doing nothing – which is what we’re stuck with today.”

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On Thursday, he said CARR is the tool that Kentucky needs.

“We don’t want to take guns away from people who are law-abiding citizens,” Westerfield said. “We want to step in temporarily to keep people safe.”

Supporters of CARR say the bipartisan bill “ensures you have a way to intervene before your loved one misuses a gun and before lives are lost.”

According to Whitney Strong and Sandy Hook Promise, groups working on solutions to end gun violence, nearly 80% of people considering suicide give some sign of their intentions. The groups say studies also show that 90% of mass shooters engaged in suicidal behavior before their attacks, and 80% expressed their intent to others.

So, CARR supporters say when signs are visible, CARR is the tool for prevention.

How does it work?

  1. Law enforcement files petition after assessing evidence provided by concerned community member.
  2. Judge approved or denies the petition following strict, independent judicial review.
  3. If order is granted, an individual’s guns are temporarily transferred to law enforcement or a trusted person outside of the household.
  4. A hearing is held so that the individual and judge can determine the best next steps, including identifying opportunities for much-needed support services.
  5. Guns are returned when individual is no longer in crisis. 

Kirsten Russell of Louisville believes that if Kentucky had CARR years ago, her mother would still be alive today.

“In April of 2018, my mentally ill brother took my mother’s life. There were many warning signs. We filed for a mental inquest warrant. We were denied. He didn’t fit the criteria,” Russell said.

“For my family, CARR would’ve made all the difference in the world. We would’ve been able to temporarily remove his firearms and I believe my mom would still be here with us today,” she added.

However, not everyone is supportive of CARR. Rep. Savannah Maddox, (R) Dry Ridge, has been an outspoken critic.

“We must fervently resist any effort to pass gun control legislation,” Maddox said in December.

“Any type of red flag law proposal, or ERPO, or the CARR act has the potential to violate at least three constitutional rights – in addition to due process and the presumption of innocence, which is a principal that is well enshrined in our American legal system,” Maddox added.

Maddox explained that she believes Second Amendment rights are not negotiable. She also expressed frustration with some of her fellow Republican lawmakers for proposing gun control measures.

“I continue to be baffled by the fact that this is the second time that we’ve heard this piece of legislation in a Republican super-majority of 111 out of 138,” she said. “And I know that there have been calls for us to find common ground, but in reality, our common ground is the constitution.”

The National Rifle Association has said the group was “assured some time ago by individual members of majority leadership that (CARR) would not be taken up due to constitutionality concerns and the dangerous precedent it sets.”

But the bill’s sponsor believes the bill is constitutional. He explains that there are limits to constitutional rights, including the Second Amendment.

“Our second amendment doesn’t require – anywhere in the text of the Second Amendment – that you be convicted of a felony before you lose your rights to own, possess, or buy a firearm,” Westerfield said. “Yet we’ve all agreed as policymakers at some point – every other state has to my knowledge – that that’s a restriction we’re going to be okay with.”

“You can look at any constitutional right and there are limitations set either by policymakers of by the court – and this is no different,” he added.

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