Lexington’s Republican mayor offers “prayers and thoughts,” but rebukes Louisville mayor’s call for more local control over gun laws

Lexington, Ky.–Lexington’s Mayor Linda Gorton said she was “horrified” and offered “prayers and thoughts” one day after a mass shooting in downtown Louisville. However, the second-term Republican mayor pushed back against calls for more local control over gun laws.

While Louisville’s Democratic Mayor Craig Greenberg announced earlier this year Louisville would disarm any firearms seized by police before sending them to the Kentucky State Police (KSP) to be auctioned, Gorton stopped short of calling for stricter gun laws or other changes needed to prevent mass shootings across the country. That’s the job of state and federal governments, she said.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg (D) speaks about the mass shooting that happened Monday in the city. Greenberg has called for more local control over gun laws in Kentucky. (MSNBC)

“We are horrified about what happened there,” Gorton said at a press conference Tuesday, “Our prayers and thoughts go out to Louisville but we also want them to know that we are right there for them — the city, the mayor, whatever they need.”

Monday’s shooting at Old National Bank left six people dead, including the shooter and nine people injured. The gunman’s AR-15 will eventually be auctioned off to the public, under state law. Again, Gorton said nothing could be done on the local level, “It’s not legal for us to destroy guns,” she claimed Tuesday.

State law requires all weapons confiscated by local law enforcement to be sent to KSP for auction. The program has become popular with criminals, as well; a Louisville Courier-Journal investigation found that at least 24 weapons previously seized and auctioned by KSP were later used in additional crimes.

The sale of confiscated firearms typically raises funds for the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security and the Kentucky State Police. While Louisville officials want to stop this practice, there is no policy they can pursue to change it because of another state law that prohibits local governments from enacting regulations on guns or ammunition. The law was proposed and passed in 2012 with the sponsorship of former House Democratic caucus chair Bob Damron and signed by former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

Allowing cities to create their own gun laws would create incongruent policies that would be difficult to enforce, Gorton said, suggesting the responsibility fell on the private owners and managers of local buildings and workplaces.

“I urge everyone who has authority over a building, a public building, to take whatever steps they need to take to make it safe for their employees,” Gorton said.

Lexington saw a record number of homicides in 2022. While the violence has somewhat subsided in 2023, the city did see a rash of shootings last week.

A building on Bryan Avenue in Lexington was struck repeatedly by gunfire on Sunday. (Contributed)

Top photo: Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton (R) offered “prayers and thoughts” to Louisville Tuesday, but stopped short of supporting Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg’s policy proposals to curb gun violence. (LexTV)