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Kentucky lawmakers learn about Red Flag Law

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Posted at 4:36 PM, Nov 22, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Whitney Austin tried to hold back her tears while telling Kentucky lawmakers her story.

"On September 6th, 2018, I walked into a mass shooting," said Austin. "I was shot 12 times."

Austin was shot when a gunman opened fire at the Fifth Third Bank headquarters in Cincinnati.

"Instead of walking into the office to solve the latest problem with my product, I was forced to solve the most difficult problem I have ever encountered - surviving a man with a gun that was determined to kill me," said Austin.

Years before the shooting in Cincinnati, Mark Barden's son, Daniel, was killed in Newtown, Connecticut. He was seven-years-old when a gunman took his life.

"He was shot to death in his first grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School," said Barden.

Barden and Austin were brought together by tragedy. But now, they and many others are working towards a goal. That goal is to make sure no one else has to go through what they both experienced.

"One of the things I lay awake thinking about at night, and I will always, constantly think about, is how this could've been prevented," said Barden. "We do know - a constant theme we keep hearing is - that there are warning signs. People do talk about it, before they take somebody else's life or their own life. That's an opportunity to prevent these tragedies."

That's where an "Extreme Risk Protection Order" bill comes into the picture. It's also known as a "Red Flag Law." It allows people like, police officers, to ask the court to temporarily take a person's guns away, if that person is a risk to him or herself, or to others.

Some state lawmakers think that bill could be an opportunity for Kentucky. They believe it will protect people, while also protecting Second Amendment rights.

"People are in search of common sense solutions that protect all of us, while also protecting rights," said Sen. Morgan McGarvey. "That's what this bill does. That's why it has bi-partisan support across the country here. That's why it has bi-partisan support here in Kentucky. That's why you see 17 states that have this law already on the book."

Right now, there is some bi-partisan support for bill. Republican State Senators Julie Raque Adams and Paul Hornback are co-sponsoring the bill with Democratic State Senator Morgan McGarvey.

However, bills that can be interpreted as forms of gun control don't do well in the Kentucky General Assembly.

During the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, some lawmakers made it clear they believe this bill breaks constitutional rights.

"The bottom line in all that we've heard today is that this proposal seeks to confiscate firearms from citizens who have not committed a crime," said Rep. Savannah Maddox. "You can call it an ERPO. You can call it a Red Flag law. You are knowingly violating, at a bare minimum, three constitutional rights."

An NRA representative told lawmakers he didn't think the bill would address the problem at hand.

"Everybody talks about we're going to come and take your guns away. You are such a danger to yourself and everybody else, we're going to take your firearms," said Art Thomm, an NRA lobbyist. "But what we don't say is that we're immediately going to take you for a mental health evaluation. Immediately. I mean, if you're that dangerous why aren't we talking about that?"

The testimony lawmakers heard on Friday was for information purposes only. The bill has not yet been finished and lawmakers can't take action on it until the legislative session begins in January.