While Republicans and Democrats differ wildly on firearms issues in Congress, opposition to gun control measures transcends political parties in Kentucky.
Like most mass-shootings in recent history, the Orlando rampage that killed 49 people at a gay nightclub provoked cries for limiting access to guns.
In Kentucky, State Rep.-elect Attica Scott called for a ban on assault weapons, registering firearms and allowing local governments to pass their own gun laws.
But House Speaker Greg Stumbo — the leader of the Democratically-led chamber that Scott is about to join — opposes the proposals.
“After 36 years in public office, I still have a 100 percent voting record in support of the Second Amendment and the NRA,” Stumbo said in a statement provided to Kentucky Public Radio. “As tragic as the events in Orlando were, I think these changes would be an over-reaction.”
A handful of Democrats in the chamber proposed gun control legislation in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook, Connecticut shooting at an elementary school that killed 20 children and six adults.
The bill, which didn’t pass out of committee, would have allowed local governments to create their own gun laws — currently preempted by state law — and required background checks for people who purchase firearms at gun shows.
Since then, there has been little movement on gun control issues at the state Capitol.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, a Republican from Georgetown, said he doesn’t think any gun control legislation will gain momentum in the 2017 legislative session.
“Legislators need to be very careful about overreacting to a tragedy, making it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to purchase guns to protect themselves and create a false sense of security by passing feel-good legislation,” Thayer said.
Thayer accused gun control advocates of politicizing mass shootings like the one in Orlando and said policies to restrict the sale or ownership of firearms would do little to solve the problem.
“Terrorists like the Orlando gunman are going to find a way to commit these heinous crimes anyway possible,” Thayer said. “Whether they have access to firearms legally or illegally.”
Meanwhile in Washington D.C., Senate Republicans have proposed a review of gun sales to those on the FBI terrorist watch list by creating a 72-hour window in which federal officials could deny purchases for those on the list.
U.S. Senate Democrats are in favor of denying gun sales to all of those on the watch-list and closing “loopholes” that allow guns to be purchased online and at gun shows without a background check.
The two parties have started negotiating on the issue, but it remains to be seen if anything will pass.
Back in Kentucky, State Sen. Reginald Thomas, a Democrat from Lexington, said he supports a ban on military-style assault weapons but sees little support among his colleagues.
“Legislators are just fearful that their constituents are just going to beat them up if they talk about gun control,” Thomas said, lamenting that discussions about gun control only happen after mass-shootings. “Isn’t that a sad commentary on America? That we have to have blood on the table, people’s lives lost — in this case 49 people’s lives lost — for it to come up to have a discussion.”