Citation(s) from the GunPolicy.org literature library
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2020 ‘Preemption of Local Laws in Kentucky.’ Other Laws & Policies. San Francisco, CA: Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 4 December
Local Authority to Regulate Firearms in Kentucky
Kentucky law preempts several types of local firearms ordinances. In 1984, the state legislature enacted Kentucky Revised Statutes Annotated § 65.870, which states:
No city, county or urban-county government may occupy any part of the field of regulation of the transfer, ownership, possession, carrying or transportation of firearms, ammunition, or components of firearms or combination thereof.
In 1993, the Kentucky Attorney General was asked if section 65.870 would prohibit a city ordinance regulating the registration of firearms and requiring notification of the sale of firearms to the city. In opining that local municipal firearms ordinances are precluded by the statute, the Attorney General stated "[t]he language of…[section] 65.870 is unambiguous. No exceptions to the positive terms of this statute are set forth in the statute. Where the Kentucky General Assembly makes no exceptions to the positive terms of a statute, it is presumed to have intended to make none."
In 1999, the Attorney General was asked whether an ordinance regulating concealable firearms was barred by section 65.870. The Attorney General opined that section 65.870:
[E]xpressly prohibits a city from enacting legislation in the area of the ownership, possession and carrying of firearms. Nor does the General Assembly provide any exception in [section 65.870] that would permit a city to regulate "concealable firearms." Because the General Assembly bars municipalities from legislating in this area, the Louisville Ordinance is invalid.
In 2004, the Kentucky Legislature enacted Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 100.325, which provides that local governments may not "utilize the zoning process to prohibit a federally licensed firearms manufacturer, importer, or dealer from locating at any place within the jurisdiction at which any other business may locate," nor adopt any regulations that "could be reasonably construed to solely affect federally licensed firearms manufacturers, importers, or dealers." This section appears to be a response to Peter Garrett Gunsmith, Inc. v. City of Dayton, 98 S.W.3d 517, 520 (Ky. Ct. App. 2002), in which the Court of Appeals of Kentucky held that section 65.870 did not prohibit cities from adopting zoning ordinances that restrict the location of gun shops.
Local regulatory authority in regard to carrying concealed weapons is also limited by section 237.110(19), which provides that:
The General Assembly finds as a matter of public policy that it is necessary to provide statewide uniform standards for issuing licenses to carry concealed firearms and to occupy the field of regulation of the bearing of concealed firearms to ensure that no person who qualifies under the provisions of [section 237.110] is denied his rights.
However, in 1996, Kentucky enacted section 237.115, which references Kentucky's carrying concealed weapons licensing law, section 237.110. Section 237.115(1) provides that the licensing law may not be construed to limit, restrict or prohibit the right of a unit of a state, city, county, urban-county, or charter county government to prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons by state licensees in those portions of a building actually owned, leased, or occupied by that unit of government. Moreover, section 237.115(2) specifically authorizes the legislative bodies of city, county and urban-county governments to "prohibit or limit" the carrying of concealed deadly weapons by state licensees in those portions of a building actually owned, leased, or controlled by that government unit. Nevertheless, such ordinances "shall exempt any building used for public housing by private persons, highway rest areas, firing ranges, and private dwellings owned, leased, or controlled by that unit of government from any restriction on the carrying or possession of deadly weapons." Id.
Unless otherwise provided by state or federal law, however, no criminal penalty shall be imposed for carrying a concealed firearm with a permit at any location at which an unconcealed firearm may constitutionally be carried.
A regulation imposed by a state or local governmental unit or educational entity pursuant to section 237.115(1) or (2) may not apply to people listed in section 527.020, such as commonwealth attorneys, judges, and sheriffs. These people may carry concealed firearms anywhere but detention facilities.
The Kentucky Attorney General has interpreted section 237.115(2) to mean that "a local government, without otherwise violating the statutory prohibition contained in [section 65.870], may prohibit or limit the carrying of concealed deadly weapons in buildings or portions of buildings owned, leased, or controlled by a county." However, a county judge/executive (the chief elected official of counties in Kentucky) does not qualify as a "legislative body" and thus cannot regulate the carrying of concealed deadly weapons in the designated areas. That authority instead falls to the fiscal court of a county because the fiscal court is the county's legislative body.
In addition, Kentucky's concealed weapons licensing law, section 237.110, may not be construed to limit, restrict or prohibit the right of public or private universities, colleges, and other postsecondary education facilities (including technical schools and community colleges) to prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons on their properties.
Finally, no person, unit of government, or governmental organization may, during a period of disaster or emergency or at any other time, have the right to revoke, suspend, limit the use of, or otherwise impair the validity of the right of any person to purchase, transfer, loan, own, possess, carry, or use a firearm, firearm part, ammunition, ammunition component, or any deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. No person, unit of government, or governmental organization may, during a period of disaster or emergency or at any other time, take, seize, confiscate, or impound a firearm, firearm part, ammunition, ammunition component, or any deadly weapon or dangerous instrument from any person…
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