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Mass Shootings and Gun Laws

Renee Shaw and her guests discuss mass shootings and gun laws. Guests: Mark Bryant, Gun Violence Archive; Edwin Nighbert, League of Ky. Sportsmen; Whitney Austin, mass shooting survivor and gun safety advocate; David Burnett, attorney, ICU nurse, and self-defense advocate; U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, (D-KY3) (pre-recorded); and Shawn Morrow, special agent in charge, ATF of Louisville (pre-recorded).
Season 29 Episode 20 Length 56:33 Premiere: 06/06/22


Kentucky Tonight

KET’s Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, brings together an expert panel for in-depth analysis on major issues facing the Commonwealth.

This weekly program features comprehensive discussions with lawmakers, stakeholders and policy leaders that are moderated by award-winning journalist Renee Shaw. Often aired live, viewers are encouraged to participate by submitting questions real-time via email, Twitter or KET’s online form.
For nearly three decades, Kentucky Tonight has been a source for complete and balanced coverage of the most urgent and important public affairs developments in the state of Kentucky.

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Renee Shaw is Moderator and Director of Public Affairs for Kentucky Educational Television, currently serving as host of KET’s Kentucky Tonight, Connections, election coverage, Legislative Update and KET Forums.

Since joining KET in 1997, Shaw has produced numerous KET public affairs series and specials, including KET’s nationally recognized legislative coverage. Under her leadership, KET has expanded its portfolio of public affairs content to include Kentucky Supreme Court coverage, town hall-style forums, and multi-platform program initiatives around issues such as opioid addiction and youth mental health.  

As an award-winning journalist, Shaw has earned top awards from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, earning two regional Emmy awards, and an award from the Kentucky Associated Press for political coverage of the state legislature. She was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2017. She has been honored by the AKA Beta Gamma Omega Chapter with a Coretta Scott King Spirit of Ivy Award; earned the state media award from the Kentucky Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2019; named a Charles W. Anderson Laureate by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet in 2019 honoring her significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues; earned the Anthony Lewis Media Award from the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy for her work on criminal justice reform in 2014; and, in 2015, received the Green Dot Award for her coverage of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.  

In 2018, KET earned a national media award from Mental Health America for its multi-dimensional content on the opioid epidemic shepherded by Shaw. That same year, she co-produced and moderated a six-part series on youth mental health that was awarded first place in educational content by NETA, the National Educational Telecommunications Association. In 2019, Shaw was recognized by The Kentucky Gazette as one of the 50 most notable women in Kentucky politics and government. In addition, Renee was awarded the Charles W. Anderson Laureate Award by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues.

Host Renee Shaw smiling in a green dress with a KET set behind her.

Panelists Explore a Societal Problem that Brings Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights into Conflict

It has become an all-too-familiar cycle in American civic life: A community experiences a mass shooting incident, devastated local citizens mourn, politicians offer their thoughts and prayers, gun safety advocates renew their calls for firearms controls, and gun owners resist attempts to enact new laws and regulations.

Then another shooting occurs and the cycle repeats.

In the two weeks since the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting that left 21 students and teachers dead there have been more than 30 additional mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a Lexington-based website and research group that tracks firearms use in murders, suicides, and other incidents.

Bipartisan talks are underway in Washington to find any legislative options that could actually pass Congress.

“No single proposal is going to be sufficient to deal with the issue of gun safety,” says Rep. John Yarmuth (KY-3). “So we have to pass a variety of them.”

The Louisville Democrat says the House of Representatives is considering eight different proposals, including expanded background checks, a ban on assault weapons, age restrictions on semi-automatic weapons purchases, limits on bullet magazine capacities, and so-called red flag laws that create a judicial process for the temporary removal of firearms from unstable individuals. But Yarmuth acknowledges that these bills would have little chance of passing the Senate, which is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. He also says no law can prevent every gun crime.

“The question is, do we sit back and say we’re helpless to do anything, or do we take steps that will reduce the likelihood or at least reduce the frequency of these tragic events,” says the Congressman.

While many of the House proposals enjoy overwhelming public support, according to Yarmuth, that has done little to move Republican lawmakers to support them.

“Weakening the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens will not bring an end to the violent evil that persists in this country,” says Republican Congressman Hal Rogers (KY-5).

That political stalemate is frustrating for gun safety advocates like Whitney Austin, who survived a 2018 mass shooting in Cincinnati in which she was hit 12 times.

“We can do a lot [but] we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface because politics gets in the way in the way of us coming together and solving this issue,” she says.

An Option to Temporarily Remove Guns from Individuals in Crisis

Austin is the cofounder and executive director of Whitney/Strong, an organization that advocates for responsible firearms ownership and evidence-based solutions to gun violence. The group lobbies for safe storage laws, and a proposal they call crisis aversion and rights retention (CARR). That would create a process by which a judge can order the temporary removal of firearms from the possession of someone deemed to be a threat to themselves or others due to a mental health condition, substance abuse, or other issue. Austin says CARR requires evidence for a removal order, maintains due process rights for the gun owner, and encourages treatment to help them with their problem.

“Let’s get them to a place in which gun ownership is safe so that they’re not taking their own life with their firearm or they’re not harming others,” says Austin.

Such risk protection orders are proven to prevent suicides and reduce the incidence of gun violence, according to Austin.

Edwin Nighbert of the League of Kentucky Sportsmen says mental health problems seem to have driven many recent mass shooting incidents. But he says even when it was clearly evident through social media that a potential shooter was a threat, nothing was done to stop that individual.

“Mental health is a major problem,” he says, “and getting to the level where you can be involuntarily committed is very high.”

Nighbert adds he doesn’t think any National Rifle Association member would oppose Austin’s CARR proposal as long as it’s very carefully crafted to protect responsible gun owners. He also says a waiting period on gun purchases is “not a bad idea.”

David Burnett, an attorney, ICU nurse, and self-defense advocate in Lexington, says he appreciates the due process protections in CARR, but he remains unconvinced that the proposal would prevent mass shootings.

“I’m wary of a law that would require someone to go in and justify their ongoing possession of a firearm,” says Burnett.

In reviewing any gun safety proposal, Burnett says he looks to see if it would reduce gun violence, do more harm than good, and be something that criminals would obey. He contends most proposed firearms restrictions would result in little positive benefit, put responsible gun owners at risk, and be impractical to implement.

“We need to have more of a holistic conversation than just focusing in on the firearms,” says Burnett. “It’s very tempting to search for emotionally satisfying, impulsive solutions rather than look for the empirical numbers and look for the rational basis.”

Instead of limits on guns, Burnett recommends early interventions for people with mental health problems and stronger security in public places like schools.

Millions of Weapons in Circulation

There are about 400 million firearms in circulation in America today, according to Shawn Morrow, special agent in charge of the Louisville division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

“When you consider that the U.S. has a population of just over 335 million people, certainly that’s a lot of guns,” says Morrow.

Kentuckians are well-stocked with firearms as well. Morrow says last year alone, officials conducted 3.5 million background checks on firearms purchasers in the state.

From the perspective of law enforcement, guns become a problem when they fall into the hands of someone who has criminal intent. Morrow says that can happen when illegal buyers acquire a firearm through a straw purchase, from an unlicensed dealer, or by theft. About a quarter of guns Louisville police encounter while investigating criminal activity have been previously reported as stolen, according to Morrow.

“In Kentucky there are about eight firearms a day that are reported stolen to law enforcement, but we know that doesn’t account for all firearms,” he says. “Kentucky is one of the states that doesn’t require mandatory reporting if your gun is taken, so know there’s some thefts that occur that law enforcement just doesn’t know about.”

Austin says that points to the critical need for requiring safe and secure storage of personal firearms, both to prevent theft and to protect children who could be endangered by playing with a gun or a family member who might have suicidal thoughts.

But Burnett argues that even safe-storage laws shouldn’t restrict a gun owner’s access so much that they can’t easily use their weapons to defend themselves or their families if the need arises.

That resistance to something as basic as safely securing guns in the home rankles Mark Bryant of the Gun Violence Archive.

“The one thing the no one seems to want to talk about on the gun rights side is taking responsibility for properly securing your weapons to where they can’t be stolen,” he says, “to where the three-year-old or the two-year-old can’t find daddy’s gun and shoot themselves.”

While high-profile incidents like the Uvalde school mass shooting tend to get the most media attention, Bryant says the vast majority of gun deaths occur on city streets among people using stolen handguns. While 247 Americans have died in mass shootings so far this year, nearly 8,400 have died in gun-involved homicides and murders. Another 10,428 people have taken their own lives using a firearm. Yet Bryant says the NRA-fueled myth of a good guy with a gun being the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun continues to persist in the U.S.

“A lot of the gun rights folks are very responsible. Others do everything they can to strongly avoid having any responsibility for a solution,” says Bryant. “That’s bothersome because… everybody has to help this.”

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Season 29 Episodes

Medical Marijuana Legalization in Kentucky

S29 E44 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/30/23

Kentucky's Juvenile Justice System

S29 E43 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/23/23

Legislation Introduced in the 2023 General Assembly

S29 E42 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/09/23

2023 Legislative Session Preview

S29 E41 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12/19/22

National Politics

S29 E40 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 12/05/22

2022 Election Preview

S29 E39 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/07/22

Inflation and the Economy

S29 E38 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/31/22

Constitutional Amendments 1 & 2

S29 E37 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 10/24/22

Candidates for U.S. House of Representatives: Part Two

S29 E36 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 10/17/22

Candidates for U.S. House of Representatives: Part One

S29 E35 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/10/22

U.S. Senate Candidate Charles Booker

S29 E34 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 10/03/22

Discussing Flooding's Impact on Eastern Kentucky Schools

S29 E33 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/26/22

COVID-19, Monkeypox and Influenza

S29 E32 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/12/22

Eastern Kentucky Flooding and Legislative Relief Package

S29 E31 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/29/22

Child Care in Kentucky

S29 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/22/22

School Safety: Debating State Policies

S29 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/01/22

Work, Wages and Welfare

S29 E28 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/25/22

50 Years of Title IX

S29 E26 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/18/22

The Impact of U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

S29 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/11/22

Kentucky's Ban on Abortion

S29 E23 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/27/22

Discussing New Developments in the COVID-19 Pandemic

S29 E22 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/20/22

Reducing Opioid Addiction Rates in Kentucky

S29 E21 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 06/13/22

Mass Shootings and Gun Laws

S29 E20 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/06/22

Discussing the Rise in Gas Prices and Inflation

S29 E19 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 05/23/22

Previewing Kentucky's 2022 Primary Election

S29 E18 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/16/22

Third Congressional District Democratic Primary

S29 E17 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/09/22

Candidates in the 2022 Primary Election: Part Two

S29 E16 Length 58:33 Premiere Date 05/02/22

Candidates in the 2022 Primary Election: Part One

S29 E15 Length 58:40 Premiere Date 04/25/22

Lawmakers Review the 2022 General Assembly

S29 E14 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 04/18/22

Recap of the 2022 Legislative Session

S29 E13 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 04/11/22

Public Assistance and Jobless Benefits

S29 E12 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/28/22

Abortion Legislation in the 2022 General Assembly

S29 E11 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 03/21/22

State Budget, Taxes, and Other 2022 General Assembly Topics

S29 E10 Length 57:42 Premiere Date 03/14/22

Critical Race Theory and Approaches to Teaching History

S29 E9 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/28/22

2022 Legislative Session at the Midpoint

S29 E8 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/21/22

Name, Image and Likeness Compensation

S29 E7 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/14/22

Child Abuse and Neglect

S29 E6 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/07/22

Debating School Choice in Kentucky

S29 E5 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 02/01/22

Debating Provisions in the Proposed State Budget

S29 E4 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 01/24/22

Redistricting, State Budget, and Other Legislative Issues

S29 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/10/22

Discussing Legislative Goals for the 2022 General Assembly

S29 E2 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/03/22

Previewing the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly

S29 E1 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 12/06/21

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Renee Shaw hosts a 2024 legislative session preview. Scheduled guests: State Representative Chad Aull (D-Lexington); State Representative Stephanie Dietz (R-Edgewood); State Senator Cassie Chambers Armstrong (D-Louisville); and State Senator Amanda Mays Bledsoe (R- Lexington). A 2023 KET production.

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2024 Legislative Preview - S30 E32

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2023 Election - S30 E31

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Candidate Conversations: Lieutenant Governor - S30 E30

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