CARR: Bill filed to temporarily remove guns from Kentuckians in crisis

Published 1:35 pm Thursday, January 25, 2024

A bill that would temporarily remove firearms from an individual in crisis was filed in the Kentucky Senate today.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Fruit Hill, is leading the push to pass the Crisis Aversion and Rights Retention Act.

Westerfield, Sen. David Yates, D-Louisville, and Whitney Austin, a survivor of a 2018 mass shooting in Cincinnati, led a rally Thursday afternoon in support of the bill.

Supporters donned purple shirts that read “I support CARR” on the front and “Common ground for the Commonwealth” on the back.

“We want to step in temporarily to keep people safe, Westerfield said. “We don’t want it to be abused. We want to do something responsible, constitutional to keep people safe.”

What’s in the final draft?

The Crisis Aversion and Rights Retention Act would temporarily remove firearms from individuals believed to be “an immediate and present danger of causing serious physical to self or others” with firearms in their possession.

Only a law enforcement officer can file a petition for a crisis aversion and rights retention order.

Law enforcement officers must include specific evidence supporting the need for a CARR order. A district court judge will then review the order.

If the court finds sufficient evidence, law enforcement will visit the home of the individual believed to be in crisis to obtain their firearms. They are not to go inside the home unless the respondent asks them to.

If the individual in crisis refuses to surrender their guns, the court can hold them in contempt, and law enforcement can ask for a search warrant to enter their home.

Under CARR, there will be a hearing within six days of the firearm surrender where all parties, including the individual in crisis and the law enforcement officer who filed the petition, will be present.

Until that point, the individual is banned from possessing, buying or using a firearm. Their firearms will be held by the police or someone who does not live with the individual and agrees not to give them access.

Hearings are not criminal procedures, and any individual impacted by a CARR order is not charged with a crime.

At the hearing, there is a rebuttable presumption, meaning the default decision is to return the firearms to the individual believed to be in crisis.

The burden of proof is on the petitioner—the law enforcement officer—to keep the CARR order in place.

A CARR order can last up to 90 days, at which point it may be renewed. The individual believed to be in crisis can request a hearing to end the order and return their firearms once every 45 days.

At subsequent hearings, the individual can cite crisis intervention, treatment or services that prove they are no longer in crisis.

Law enforcement petitioners must present “clear and convincing evidence” that the individual continues to be a danger to themselves or others in order to keep the order in place.

How likely is CARR to pass?

Sen. David Givens, a Greensburg Republican who is a member of Senate leadership, attended the rally.

He said in a post-rally interview that he supports the conversation—”this ability to find that safe space and common sense solutions to someone who’s in mental health crisis.”

Givens would not commit to support or opposition to the bill, and said that he had not seen the final draft yet. However, he agreed with the bill sponsors that the measure has more private support, and Republican lawmakers are more “open-minded,” than it may appear.

He’s a particular fan of the rebuttable presumption.

Austin, Westerfield and Yates did not seem to believe that CARR would go all the way this year, but that they hoped to take more small steps toward its eventual passage at some point in the future.

Westerfield said he hoped the bill gets a committee assignment and hearing, but that it is not guaranteed.

Yates said that he wants to emphasize that this is not a “gun-grabbing” bill, and that he is tired of not trying to do something because it’s too hard or the threshold for support is too high.

Austin said that the bill would live on because of its supporters, no matter which legislators happened to carry it. She said that nothing is an “overnight success,” and that the work would continue.

“We’re filing a bill to reduce mass violence, to reduce suicide in our state, and in a bipartisan way,” she said.