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Louisville split on changes to gun laws; Conway questions funding, video games

Louisville split on changes to gun laws; Conway questions funding, video games

by Joe Arnold


Posted on December 19, 2012 at 5:23 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Kentucky's chief law enforcement officer says the state is adequately enforcing existing firearms laws, yet the laws themselves may be inadequate to deal with gun violence.

"As a society, it's time to talk about what we can do to keep combat weapons away from our schools," said Attorney General Jack Conway (D-Kentucky).

"We're pretty wide open," Conway said.  "If you pass a basic background check you can get a gun, and if you go to a gun show you can get anything."

Conway also called for better funding of Kentucky school safety efforts and a reexamination of how violent video games may desensitize young minds.

At a White House briefing on Wednesday, President Barack Obama urged Americans to demand changes from Congress.  An effort to formulate "concrete" proposals to stem gun violence will be led by Vice-President Joe Biden and is tasked with forwarding its conclusions to Congress within weeks, by January.

The President's comments came three days after a forceful speech at a memorial for 27 shooting victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.

“I will use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed at preventing more tragedies like this,” Mr. Obama said. “It won’t be easy, but that can’t be an excuse not to try.”

Despite the President's call to action, there is little consensus on the streets of Louisville.

"It seems like everytime some fool shoots up a school they try to get new gun laws," said Jax Rhapsody, an aspiring security guard who is working toward an armed guard license.

"I think we need changes in that there need to be stiffer penalties for those who break the law," said Lisa Davis.  "We don't need stiffer gun control.  I think our Second Amendment gives us the right to arm ourselves and defend ourselves."

In a gun control debate which hinges on Americans' constitutional right to bear arms, some say not all guns are created equal.

"I grew up in a family, we hunted. We went squirrel hunting, deer hunting, shot skeet did all kinds of stuff," explained Chris Salsman.  "To me, for one thing, there's no reason why there should be assault weapons, automatic, semi-automatic weapons on the streets of our cities.  Those weapons are designed for war."

In November, at the urging of the National Rifle Association, Kentucky voters approved an amendment to Kentucky's constitution which guarantees a right to hunt and fish.

Conway said the amendment would not be a factor if the United States reinstates a ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004.

"I know a lot of people that hunt deer. I know people that hunt elk," Conway said.  "I don't know any of them using an AK-47 (assault rifle) to shoot the deer.  These are combat weapons that are designed to mow down people."

"I guess (laws) could change," Rhapsody conceded.  "Maybe in some ways to figure out how to stop certain people from getting (firearms)."

Meanwhile, Conway - who helped craft school safety legislation in 1998 after Heath High School student Michael Carneal opened fire on classmates in West Paducah, killing three girls - decried cuts to the programs launched by the effort.

"The second year it was funded at $10 million annually, but that funding has been slashed by more than fifty percent," Conway said.  "So not only has it not kept pace with inflation, but in real dollars it's been slashed by more than fifty percent and I think its probably time to revisit that commitment to the safety of our children in schools."

The legislation launched the Kentucky Center for School Safety at Eastern Kentucky University and provided mechanisms to both place security officers in schools and allow teachers "to speak up when they suspect a student is mentally troubled," Conway said.

"Being able to go their principal, report it to their superintendent, get the parents involved in a dialogue," Conway said. 

"We've got to think about this culturally," Conway added.  "Yes, (mass shootings) have to do with how many guns we have in this country.  It also has a lot to do with mental health.  But it also has to do with our entertainment culture."

"Our children are getting on PlayStation and they're playing combat games.  They kill something and then it's over and they just 'reset.'  Well, you don't get to hit 'reset' in Newtown, Connecticut.
Conway suggested that the video game industry's self-policing of its rating system has not been effectively curtailing use of the most violent games by children.

"Right now what we have is warnings on the labels saying 'Not appropriate for a certain age.'  What are we doing to make certain that that's not just advisory?  That it's not leaking out and influencing kids to think that it's okay to be violent."

Conway said requiring a proof of appropriate age is one possibility yet encouraged a conversation on whether "kids are being taught the right things about violence at tender ages."