Bill blocking local assistance with federal firearms regulations sails out of Kentucky House committee

by Liam Niemeyer (Kentucky Lantern)

FRANKFORT — A bill that would block local assistance with federal firearms bans — one of several filed by Republicans in the GOP-dominated Kentucky legislature that aim to curb gun control restrictions — sailed out of a state House of Representatives committee Tuesday. 

House Bill 153 would prevent local law enforcement, employees of public agencies and local governments from assisting or cooperating with a “federal ban” on firearms, firearms accessories and ammunition. As written, it would also prevent local governments and public agencies from adopting rules or spending public funding or resources to enforce such a federal ban on firearms. 

Rep. Josh Bray, R-Mount Vernon, tried to pass a similar bill last year with the legislation easily passing the House but failing to get through the Senate. 

Bray in his testimony in front of the House Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection referenced a recent federal rule change by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) reclassifying some pistols with a “stabilizing brace” — a rear attachment outfitted on pistols — as more strictly-regulated “short-barreled rifles.” 

“The Federal ATF has made a ruling on pistol braces that they’ve determined that now all of the sudden these popular firearm accessories are illegal,” Bray said. “Our local tax dollars won’t be going to enforce Second Amendment issues that the federal government deems to be inappropriate.” 

In the press release from last month, ATF Director Steven Dettelbach said the federal rule change would “enhance public safety” and prevent people from circumventing federal laws regarding stabilizing braces that would “transform” pistols into short-barreled rifles.

The federal rule has received pushback from gun-rights groups such as the National Rifle Association, which has pointed out the braces were originally designed for veterans with disabilities. 

Bray believes the legislation has a “pretty good” chance of passing this year given that the version of the similar bill he tried to push last year received strong support in the House and had stalled late in last year’s legislative session. 

A reporter asked Bray about concerns raised last year by former Democratic Rep. Patti Minter of Bowling Green, who worried whether the bill would tie the hands of local law enforcement from working with federal agents. 

Bray said he didn’t believe the concerns were that “big of an issue.” 

In the language of the bill, it states that nothing in the bill would prevent or limit local law enforcement, local governments or public agencies from working with federal officials if the collaboration was about something other than a federal gun ban or regulation.  

The Kentucky State Fraternal Order of Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the bill.

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Photo: Rep. Josh Bray, R-Mount Vernon (LRC)