Kentucky law expressly preempts several types of local firearms ordinances.
Kentucky Revised Statutes Annotated section 65.870(1) provides:
“No existing or future city, county, urban-county government, charter county, consolidated local government, unified local government, special district, local or regional public or quasi-public agency, board, commission, department, public corporation, or any person acting under the authority of any of these organizations may occupy any part of the field of regulation of the manufacture, sale, purchase, taxation, transfer, ownership, possession, carrying, storage, or transportation of firearms, ammunition, components of firearms, components of ammunition, firearms accessories, or combination thereof.”
Any existing or future executive or legislative action in violation of the above section “or the spirit thereof” is “null, void, and unenforceable,” and any person or organization specified in the section quoted above must have repealed any executive or legislative action in violation of the above section “or the spirit above” by December of 2012.1
Further, section 100.325 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.”2
Moreover, the Kentucky General Assembly has expressly limited local authority to regulate the carrying of concealed weapons. The General Assembly expressly occupies “the field of regulation of the bearing of concealed firearms to ensure that no person who qualifies [to carry a concealed weapon] is denied his rights.”3
Finally, section 237.104 provides that 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. It also prohibits the taking, seizing, confiscating or impounding of a firearm, firearm part, ammunition, ammunition component, or any deadly weapon or dangerous instrument during those same times.
Kentucky does not restrict or prohibit:
- The right of public or private universities, colleges, and other postsecondary education facilities (including technical schools and community colleges) from prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons on their properties4
- A local government from prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons in portions of buildings it owns, leases, or occupies.5 The local government, however, may not impose a criminal penalty for carrying a concealed firearm with a permit at any location at which an unconcealed firearm may constitutionally be carried, unless otherwise provided by state or federal law.6
In 1993, the Kentucky Attorney General was asked if KRS §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.”7
In 1996 the Kentucky Attorney General 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.”8
In 1999, the Kentucky Attorney General invalidated as preempted a Louisville, Kentucky ordinance regulating concealable firearms, finding that section 65.870 “expressly prohibits a city from enacting legislation in the area of the ownership, possession and carrying of firearms” and does not “provide any exception that would permit a city to regulate “concealable firearms.”9
Kentucky law provides a cause of action for declaratory or injunctive relief for an individual or organization adversely affected by an executive or legislative action that violates section 65.870 “or the spirit thereof.”10 The prevailing party in any such action is entitled to the reimbursement of attorney and expert fees and costs.11 The court shall declare the improper ordinance null, void, and unenforceable, and issue a permanent injunction against enforcement of the ordinance.12
Kentucky’s firearms preemption law also imposes criminal liability on a local official who acts in violation of the state’s firearms preemption law. A public servant in Kentucky who violates the provisions of KRS section 65.870 or “the spirit thereof” is subject to criminal prosecution for either Official Misconduct in the first degree, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a sentence of 90 days to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $500, or Official Misconduct in the second degree, a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a sentence of up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $250, depending on the nature of the violation.13
For state laws prohibiting local units of government (i.e., cities and counties) from filing certain types of lawsuits against firing ranges and the gun industry, see our page on Immunity Statutes in Kentucky.
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- Ky. Rev. Stat. § 65.870(2), (3).
- This section appears to be a response to Peter Garrett Gunsmith, Inc. v. City of Dayton, 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. 98 S.W.3d 517, 520 (Ky. Ct. App. 2002).
- Ky. Rev. Stat. § 237.110(19).
- Ky. Rev. Stat. § 237.115(1).
- Ky. Rev. Stat. § 237.115(2). The local government, however, “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.” KRS § 237.115(2). Moreover, 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 individuals may carry concealed firearms anywhere but detention facilities. KRS § 237.115(1), (2).
- Ky. Rev. Stat. § 237.115(3).
- 93 Ky. Op. Att’y Gen. 71, 1993 Ky. AG LEXIS 179, at *2. Note that the Attorney General was interpreting a prior version of KRS §65.870, which provided that “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.” Id.
- 96 Ky. Op. Att’y Gen. 39, 1996 Ky. AG LEXIS 79, at *5.
- 99 Ky. Op. Att’y Gen. 10, 1999 Ky. AG LEXIS 211, at *1-*2.
- Ky. Rev. Stat. §65.870(4).
- Ky. Rev. Stat. §65.870(5).
- Ky. Rev. Stat. §65.870(6).