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Louisville mayor rebukes Ky. law requiring shooting weapon to be auctioned

Mayor Craig Greenberg (D) told viewers during a news conference Tuesday that the firearm that was used to kill five people and injure eight in Louisville on Monday will ultimately be put up for auction.

“To those in the national media that are joining us here today,” Greenberg said, “this may be even more shocking than it is to those of us locally who know this and are dealing with this.”

Greenberg explained that a law the state passed in 1998 prohibits law enforcement from destroying confiscated firearms — even when they have been used in crimes. Instead, those firearms — including the AR-15-style rifle used in Monday’s shooting at Old National Bank — are required to be sent to Kentucky State Police, which sells the weapons to federally licensed gun dealers.

Destroying the weapon used in Monday’s attack, Greenberg said, “would make me a criminal for trying too hard to stop the real evil criminals who are taking other people’s lives and who are eager to make a spectacle of mass murder.”

“The laws we have now are enabling violence and murder,” added Greenberg, who himself survived a shooting at his campaign office in February 2022.

Kentucky State Police Capt. Paul Blanton did not respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post on Tuesday night, but he told the Lexington Herald-Leader that about 80 percent of auction proceeds go to the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security and about 20 percent of the funds go to Kentucky State Police.

A Louisville Metro Police Department spokesperson declined to comment, referring questions about the auctions to Kentucky State Police. In February, interim chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel said in a news conference: “LMPD has no interest in spending hundreds of hours investigating a crime only to potentially pick up the same gun twice — or more.”

In February, Greenberg announced that Louisville police would remove firing pins from guns and add labels warning that the weapons may have been used in a homicide before sending them to Kentucky State Police. Greenberg has lobbied for Louisville to have the autonomy to set its own gun restrictions, including the ability to destroy confiscated firearms, but a bill that passed in 2012 prevents Kentucky cities and counties from doing so.

Some Democrats have drafted bills that would empower municipalities such as Louisville to enforce their own gun restrictions, but the proposals have not advanced in the state legislature.

“Every member of the state legislature, like everyone else in our state and in our country, is horrified by what we saw yesterday, by what we see in other cities around the country,” Greenberg said Tuesday. “None of us wants this to happen again. … But it will keep happening. That’s why we have to do more than what we’ve already done. Let’s change the state laws.”

State Sen. Karen Berg (D) told The Post that she introduced a bill in February that would require unowned, confiscated firearms to be destroyed — a measure she believed would be an easy compromise for both political parties.

But Berg said the state legislature, which is mostly Republican, doesn’t want to discuss the bill.

“It’s low-hanging fruit,” Berg said. “They’re in our possession. They don’t belong to anybody. And instead of literally spending the money … so we can resell them, why can’t we put them in an incinerator?”

Tens of thousands of guns in Kentucky have been auctioned to the highest bidder, providing state entities millions of dollars that have helped pay for law enforcement equipment, according to the Louisville Courier Journal. In 2021, the Courier Journal found 31 instances of weapons auctioned by the state later being used in crimes over about a six-year period.

Authorities said Monday’s gunman had legally purchased the rifle six days earlier. The shooter killed Joshua Barrick, 40; Deana Eckert, 57; Thomas Elliott, 63; Juliana Farmer, 45; and James Tutt, 64.

Louisville police are likely to add a warning sticker to the firearm used in Monday’s shooting before sending it to state police. But the weapon could be used again.

“Think about that,” Greenberg said Tuesday. “That murder weapon will be back on the streets one day under Kentucky’s current law.”

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