SHOOTING STRAIGHT: How the firearms debate is shaping up in Spencer County

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Part 1 of 2

By Mallory Bilger

Editor’s note: The Spencer Magnet introduces a two-part series this week localizing the national firearms debate. In this week’s story, hear what a local business owner, a trained concealed carry instructor, local law enforcement and some Spencer County political leaders have to say about the issue. Make sure to pick up next week’s copy of The Magnet to learn more about how the issue is being addressed in state and federal government, as well as how local education officials are addressing school safety concerns in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.

You need not look any further than Spencer County to localize the debate barreling through America about firearms ownership, and, much like the discussions nationwide, it is almost impossible to find a single opinion that totally embodies the numerous thoughts on the hot-button issue.
While Spencer County is a small bedroom community known for its beautiful landscape and hunting enthusiasts, opinions still vary as to what, if any response, is needed to address firearms safety and civilian ownership rights.

Firearms, training in high demand locally and abroad following Sandy Hook Elementary shooting
The tragic and bloody Dec. 14 massacre of 26 lives — 20 of which were 6 and 7 years old — at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., has gun owners in a frenzy to buy up ammunition and guns, in fear of a possible federal government crackdown on firearms ownership laws.
Salt River Supply store owner Fred Taylor is the only local firearms retailer and has seen a spike in demand for both guns and ammunition since December.
“People are concerned about their rights being removed from them,” Taylor said, who admits he proudly supports the United States Constitution and a citizen’s right to bear arms. “Whatever they want to shoot and carry, I think it’s the individual’s right to do that.”
Taylor said most guns that use high-capacity magazines are difficult to find right now.
“My honest opinion (is that) I think it’s their right to buy high capacity magazines and rifles. I think everybody has the right to choose what they shoot,” he said.
Taylor said he believes banning assault weapons and other similar firearms would not alleviate the problem of criminals plotting heinous crimes like the one that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary.
“The concern is these folks that have a criminal history, but they’re going to have a firearm regardless of how they get it,” he said.
Spencer County resident and magistrate Hobert Judd teaches a local concealed deadly weapons permitting class and said that demand for his course is higher than he has seen it in years. He believes it is connected to both the Sandy Hook tragedy and the reelection of President Barack Obama.
“After this election, I’ve been turning people away,” Judd said. “I’ve scheduled out three weeks ahead.”
Judd offers a course whenever he has four or more firearms owners seeking a concealed carry license. He has been teaching the course since 1997 and has a military background in weapons qualification training.
“The people who are coming to me are definitely gun enthusiasts,” Judd said, noting that citizens should take note any time constitutional rights are being discussed.
“It’s their right,” Judd said. “I may not want an AR15 but if you want one, you should be able to get one. It’s up to the law to see that you use that very professionally.”
Judd said law-abiding citizens would be hurt the most if gun ownership laws were stiffened.
“It’s the bad guys that are still going to have their guns,” he said.

Magistrate pushes for “Second Amendment Preservation” ordinance, but question remains if such a move would carry any legal weight
Magistrate Jerry Davis introduced what he called a local second amendment preservation ordinance to the Fiscal Court on Monday night. Davis said he had hoped to get it on the agenda for the meeting and had provided a copy of the ordinance to Judge-Executive Bill Karrer, who passed it along to County Attorney Ruth Hollan, beforehand.
However, the matter was not on the agenda, but was brought up by Davis during time reserved for comments from magistrates.
“Since it’s not on the agenda, I’ll get you a copy and you guys can think about it,” Davis told the other magistrates.
Davis asked for Hollan’s opinion on the ordinance and she responded that her advice would be not to pass it.
Hollan said she was an advocate for the second amendment, but had strong concerns about who would be responsible for enforcing the ordinance. Ordinances are local laws.
“What gives our sheriff the authority to buck the federal government?” Hollan asked. “If you want to give your legislators an idea how you feel, I would recommend a resolution. But I would absolutely steer clear of that ordinance.”
Kentucky Association of Counties general counsel Tim Sturgill told The Spencer Magnet that although some communities in Kentucky and across the United States have passed such ordinances, they carry little to no weight.
“The fact of the matter is that the federal constitution takes precedence,” Sturgill said. “If a local ordinance was to conflict with any of the above, then it wouldn’t have any effect.”
He said that the courts were the only government entity that could determine if something was in conflict with the second amendment.
Sturgill said passing the ordinance would mostly likely only convey the court’s support for second amendment rights, which could be achieved through a resolution.
“To me, there’s not a whole lot of effect other than just kind of an expression of, ‘We believe that it’s an important right that needs to be preserved,’” he said.
Hollan said she believed the ordinance originated out of a “right-wing” group in Northern Kentucky.
Davis disagreed saying the ordinance was similar to one passed in a community in Indiana.
“And, what gives him [the sheriff] the right?” Davis said. “He’s a constitutional office.”
Davis continued by saying that the sheriff’s duty is to protect the constitution and implied the sheriff could tell federal agencies he would not perform an act that went against the constitution.
Clearly not pleased with Hollan’s opinion on the matter, Davis said, “I wish we had a Fiscal Court attorney instead of the judge’s attorney.”
“Let me ask you something,” Hollan said to Davis. “Where did you get all this knowledge and degree? I realize you don’t have a job and have all this time to research...”
Davis responded that being a magistrate was his job.
“You won’t find anything I say in this court not to be the truth,” he said.
Karrer ended the heated discussion and the court took no action the matter.

Local law enforcement leaders support keeping firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens
Spencer County Sheriff Donald “Buddy” Stump and Taylorsville Police Chief Toby Lewis agree on two main principals that have shaped the gun debate this far, including that law-abiding citizens should be able to exercise their second amendment rights, and criminals will continue to get their hands on firearms, no matter what the law states.
Stump and Lewis said they have both recently heard concerns from citizens about threatened gun ownership rights.  But Stump said unlike some other sheriffs in Kentucky and across the nation, he doesn’t feel compelled to personally take a stand defending the United States Constitution, because no official action has been taken to alter the current laws.
“I haven’t seen anything come out that says the federal government is going to pass a law on it,” Stump said. “When I hear something, if I think it’s going to affect the Constitutional rights of the people of Spencer County, I will stand up at that time.”
Stump said he fully supports private gun ownership because the Constitution provides for that right.
“The Kentucky Sheriff’s Association took a stand on it and they support the Second Amendment,” he said.
Lewis said he, too, supports second amendment rights but understands a potential need to regulate assault weapons.
“I understand that there may need to be some regulation on the assault weapons, but I also very much believe in our Constitution and its amendments. I think they still need to be upheld as they were,” he said.
Lewis said he has heard from numerous community members that they want gun ownership rights upheld.
“The one thing that I can say is that everyone does not want their rights impeded on by the federal government,” he said.
Stump said the sheriff’s department has not noted an uptick in firearms-related crime, or in firearms theft since the Sandy Hook tragedy. He added that the sad reality is that criminals will always find a way to obtain a firearm, no matter what the law states.
“The criminal is always going to have the weapon, if that’s what they want,” Stump said.
Lewis agreed.
“People that should not have the firearms can pretty much easily get their hands on those,” he said.
Stump said he would continue to monitor the situation, although he is not convinced that any major change to current firearms regulations is going to come down from either federal or state legislators.
“The gist that I’m getting and what I hear on the news is that they’re probably not going to pass this big gun bill that they thought they were going to pass,” Stump said.

—Editor Shannon Brock contributed to this story