I woke at 5 a.m. last Thursday thinking about the victims of the Old National Bank shooting in Louisville and googled their names so I could say a specific prayer: Thomas Elliott, James Tutt Jr., Juliana Farmer, Joshua Barrick and Deana Eckert; plus the six who were injured, James Evans, Julie Anderson, Dana Mitchell, Darrin McCauley, Dallas Schwartz and Officer Nickolas Wilt.
Sunday, Sept. 10, marked five months since this shooting. After every massacre, it’s the same talking points — too soon to talk about solutions; first we mourn the dead — and then it’s radio silence. Dear Kentucky GOP: Is 150-plus days enough time? Can we talk now?
When I typed in Old National Bank, the search engine directed me to an article explaining how the shooter’s family told lead investigator Detective Kevin Carrillo that he had attempted suicide about a year earlier and that his “mental health disorder may have played a part during this criminal act.”
I recalled visiting with my state representative, James Tipton, in his office last February, trying to discuss the gun violence epidemic here in Kentucky. He towed the tired Republican company line, doing the aw-shucks-gosh-what-can-you-do dance and pivoted to “but mental health.”
So I asked about mental health initiatives. What were Rep. Tipton and his colleagues doing to address gun violence as it related to mental health?
Nothing. They were doing nothing.
As I prayed at 5 a.m. on Thursday, I received a news alert: “BREAKING: I’m on South 40th St. in Louisville, where it has been confirmed an officer has been shot. It appears the call came in around 2:28 am. At this hour the condition of the officer is unknown. Police in tactical gear are on scene.” This was followed by another alert: “There is a heavy police presence here at 39th and Garland. Neighbors told me they heard 40-50 gunshots this morning, and say police told them an officer was shot.”
This is how we live here in Kentucky, daily news alerts that there has been yet another shooting, this time a police officer. And we are fed up.
A group in Franklin County wrote a letter to the State-Journal on Aug. 31 stating “after the mass shooting at the Old National Bank in Louisville in April, several friends with long years in public service began to meet and ask what could be done to prevent gun violence,” inviting fellow citizens “to participate in a Conversation on Building a Community Safe from Gun Violence on Sunday, Sept. 24, at 2:30 p.m. at the Paul Sawyier Public Library River Room.”
I spoke with men and women in the group of 10 who signed their names to the letter. They are unaffiliated with any group; they have been meeting regularly since May; they are fed up; and they have determined that if our elected officials don’t have the courage to address the plague of gun violence in Kentucky, they will.
In my work with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, I know there are many groups, formal and informal, having discussions like this all over Kentucky, and that there will be a reckoning — like the fed up Covenant School moms at the Tennessee Capitol for their special session — during our 2024 General Assembly.
Our kids are dying and doing lockdown drills and being told about the pleasures of bulletproof backpacks as our lawmakers preen and pass unenforceable, unconstitutional Second Amendment sanctuary bills. We are so fed up with the plague of gun violence, we are fed up with being fed up. And we are angry.
There is one bright light here in Kentucky. Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Fruit Hill), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is working on CARR, which stands for Crisis Aversion and Rights Retention. His bill would give law enforcement the due process tool they need to temporarily take a person’s gun if that person is deemed in crisis and a risk to themselves or others.
“It really comes down to how you can protect against a potential break, which in a lot of cases is actually a suicide,” Westerfield said, telling WHAS11 catastrophic events like the Uvalde mass shooting and the mass shooting at Old National Bank in Louisville have “moved the needle.”
A bill like CARR might have saved every life at Old National Bank.
Last Thursday, I said my prayers in remembrance of the victims at Old National Bank. I prayed for the police officer who was shot at dozens of times that morning for simply doing his job, and for the surgeons who saved his life. I prayed for Sen. Westerfield, for his courage and his thoughtfulness.
And later in the afternoon, I prayed after the next news alert: “A 2-year-old boy has died after being accidentally shot in the head by another toddler in his home, according to Whitley County Sheriff William Elliotte.”
Is this pro-life? What civilized society would tolerate this?
I’m praying. You’re praying. But at some point — at this point — thoughts and prayers without action are an insult.