Louisville gun ordinance declared unconstitutional

State law appears to give only state lawmakers the ability to create crimes punishable by jail time
Published: Jul. 7, 2023 at 5:11 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Metro Louisville may not be able to send people to jail for breaking city laws.

A judge ruled last month that jail time for violating a city gun ordinance is unconstitutional.

The law in question is pretty basic.

It’s illegal to fire a gun within 300 feet of a road or a building that could be occupied.

However, a person cited for doing just that to scare some people off has a pretty good public defender, one who convinced a judge that Louisville can’t send his client to jail.

“Ceasing random gunfire in densely populated areas is paramount,” former LMPD Chief Erika Shields said.

Louisville celebrated a simple solution to some shootings last April. It made it a crime to shoot a gun into the air near where people live or drive. That’s a problem around major holidays.

“There’s no conflict with the Second Amendment,” former Mayor Greg Fischer said. “This is just common sense law, one mirrored in several other cities.”

However, there may be a conflict with state law.

Police were called to the Bardstown Forest apartment complex in December. Albert Marshall told officers he had gone to his car to get a cigarette. He got into an argument with a group of people speaking Spanish outside. He got his gun and fired several shots in the air away from them to scare them off. They left, and he now faces jail time after police issued him a citation.

“Most people would say this is a good idea, we don’t want people firing guns in the community,” lawyer Brian Butler said.

Marshall’s public defender found a problem with the law, and it could have broad implications for Louisville. Simply, state law appears to give only state lawmakers the power to create crimes punishable by jail time. Not Metro Louisville.

“These are all somewhat overlapping, and it’s confusing about what power metro government has,” Butler said. “This is a very smart motion that was made.”

The County Attorney’s Office prosecuting the case disagreed in court, but did not convince Judge Anne Haynie to overturn her ruling saying Metro’s firearms discharge ordinance is unconstitutional.

The Mayor’s Office sent a statement saying:

“This is a complicated issue that impacts the Metro government’s efforts to promote safety. We are working with our legal team on an appropriate response to ensure we are upholding our top priority of keeping our community safe.”

The case against Albert Marshall is not over. However, his public defender won a big victory to keep his client out of jail.

“He’s done a great job of convincing a very good judge the community did not have this authority,” Butler said.

The County Attorney’s Office has until later this month to file an appeal.

The legislature could also take up the law next session.