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Two men openly carrying semiautomatic handguns holstered at their sides stood in the parking lot outside Bardstown Council Chambers, moments before a regular city council meeting Tuesday.
Nelson County Dispatch received a call at 6:59 p.m. from a concerned individual who described two suspicious males outside council chambers with guns on Xavier Drive.
Bardstown Police Major Ray Lewis was dispatched to the scene. Bardstown Police Chief Rick McCubbin, who regularly attends City Council meetings, heard the call from dispatch on his radio when he arrived to council chambers.
“As the call was going out, I was coming in,” McCubbin said. “They dispatched Ray Lewis to respond. I advised I was attending the meeting.”
The armed men entered council chambers and sat in the back of the audience at the meeting. McCubbin entered the meeting and took a seat in the corner.
One of the armed men, Stephen McBride, Shelbyville, told city council members that Bardstown city ordinances pertaining to gun control were unlawful. The second armed man did not identify himself and remained silent.
McBride introduced himself to city council members and cited KRS 65.870, which states, “No city, county or urban 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.”
He cited Bardstown city ordinances that he said were in violation of Kentucky Revised Statutes.
McBride pointed to a city ordinance that prohibits possession of a firearm in the city cemetery. According to McBride, the cemetery sexton could be sued for trying to enforce the ban on weapons in the city cemetery.
He also cited an ordinance that prohibits the possession of a firearm on property at Simpson Lake.
“That ordinance is also illegal and pre-empted by state statute,” McBride said. “There is no provision for banning weapons of any type in open spaces such as parks, playgrounds, sidewalks and grounds around buildings.”
The provisions of the state’s concealed carry laws (KRS 237.110 and KRS 237.115) authorize cities and counties to prohibit concealed weapons in buildings that are owned and operated by the city, but McBride said the statute does not apply to open carry weapons.
“All of these city ordinances are illegal and in violation of state law,” McBride said. “This council and the City of Bardstown are not allowed to pass any gun control ordinances. The ordinances I mentioned do just that very thing.”
McBride said officials who try to restrict the right to open carry could possibly face criminal charges.
“I don’t understand what the City of Bardstown plans to accomplish with these ordinances,” McBride said. “Their illegality makes them unenforceable. Even the attempt to enforce them would lead to serious legal difficulties and (would) be a tremendous liability to the city and to any public official that tries to enforce them.
“Over the past 18 months, the City of Bardstown has refused to comply. I don’t know why, but maybe I can get an answer to that tonight.”
Bardstown Mayor Bill Sheckles told McBride his presentation would be duly noted and said he would have City Attorney Tom Donan review a packet McBride brought to the meeting.
McBride and the other armed man left City Council chambers. McCubbin
“I introduced myself to them. They were very responsive,” McCubbin said. “As police chief, I just wanted to know what was up. For the most part he is right — what they did was 100 percent legal.”
City Council members discussed the situation after the two men left council chambers.
City Council member Roland Williams asked members of council about the legality of bringing a weapon into a city council meeting.
“Is it safe to assume that people can come into a council meeting with a weapon?” Williams asked.
“The ordinance he quoted — he is exactly correct,” Sheckles replied. “But there is still a chance (McBride) might have been wrong.”
“So I guess what you are saying is people can come into council packing?” Williams asked.
“Technically, yes,” Sheckles responded.
City Council member Tommy Reed said a weapon could be brought into city council chambers as long as it is not concealed.
Contact James Calvert at firstname.lastname@example.org.