Mayor Greenberg Forces Change to Keep Seized Firearms from Returning to Louisville’s Streets

February 16, 2023

LMPD will Render Guns Inoperative Before they can Harm Again, Attach Warning Labels to Inoperative Guns, Advocate for Legislation to Allow City to Destroy Guns Used in Violent Crimes

Working within the boundaries of Kentucky law, Mayor Craig Greenberg took action on Thursday to reduce the number of illegal guns on Louisville’s streets through sweeping changes to the way Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) handles firearms used in violent crimes.

Mayor Greenberg, himself a victim of gun violence during a workplace shooting in February of 2022, stood with others impacted by gun violence and LMPD Interim Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel to announce guns forfeited to LMPD would be rendered inoperative prior to being turned over to the Kentucky State Police(KSP). State law requires LMPD to surrender the weapons which are placed back into circulation as they are sold in a public auction administered by KSP. Additionally, Louisville Metro will affix warning labels to the firearms alerting potential buyers that the firearm may have been used in a homicide, including taking the life of an innocent child.

Mayor Greenberg also forcefully advocated for passage of a recently filed bill in the Kentucky Legislature by State Representative Keturah Herron, HB 325, which would allow such firearms to be forever disabled, removing Louisville Metro Government and taxpayers from participation in the trade of guns used in crimes.

“This is a simple change and one that will have profound impacts,” Mayor Greenberg said. “When a gun is used in a crime, including homicide, crimes against children, or even against one of our police officers, our justice system spends hundreds of thousands of dollars and untold personnel hours getting that gun off the streets. Forcing Louisville Metro Government to turn it over knowing there is a good chance it ends up back on our streets doesn’t make public safety sense, doesn’t make financial sense, and doesn’t even make common sense. I understand the power of gun violence and if this saves one life it is be worth it.”

Under current state law, firearms LMPD have seized, whether used in a crime, forfeited, or abandoned, must be turned over to the Kentucky State Police. Instead of destroying the weapon, these guns are sold at auction. After sale, some are used to commit crimes a second or even third time. A May, 2021 Louisville Courier-Journal investigation found dozens of guns sold at auction later surfaced in criminal cases with untold others never being identified.

On Thursday Mayor Greenberg delivered a legal memorandum (LINK TO PDF) to Interim-LMPD Chief Jackie Gwinn-Villaroel directing LMPD to follow new procedures prior to transferring it to the Kentucky State Police.

- Prior to transfer, the firearms’ firing pin will be removed by properly trained officers.
- The removed firing pin will remained paired with the weapon, permissible under law.
- Prior to transfer, a warning sticker will be attached to the firearm explaining the firearm may have been used to commit a homicide, including the killing of a child.

“After review this is the current legal limit Louisville Metro Government can approach to reduce the chances that confiscated guns will be used to commit more crimes,” Mayor Greenberg said. “With some simple legislative changes our friends in Frankfort can save lives, save taxpayers money, and reduce the misery gun violence forces on local communities. This is a change I hope they make.”

Leading the effort to change this policy in Frankfort, Rep. Herron filed HB 325 to allow Louisville to permanently destroy forfeited weapons. She believes this new policy needs to be part of Louisville’s greater anti-violence efforts.

“It’s unfortunate we even need this law,” Herron said. “We’re dedicated to utilizing every solution to solve our public safety crisis, we will take a multi-pronged approach including how we handle firearms after they are confiscated, along with intervention and prevention efforts.”

Currently, LMPD has an overwhelming stockpile of firearms which could be turned over to the Kentucky State Police and, after auction, find their way back onto Louisville’s streets. This includes firearms used in homicides, assaults, armed robberies, and any number of gun-related crimes which terrorize Louisville citizens and families.

“LMPD has no interest in spending hundreds of hours investigating a crime only to potentially pick up the same gun twice – or more,” said Interim-LMPD Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel. “When an illegal gun is taken off the street it should stay off the streets. This is a simple fix that can keep our officers and our community safer.”

Krista Gwynn, whose 19-year-old son was murdered in 2019 and whose 19-year-old daughter was seriously injured in a shooting in 2021 also stood with Mayor Greenberg Thursday and spoke forcefully about the needs to end the cycle of guns landing back on Louisville’s streets.

“The decision to disable these guns, many of which have taken someone’s life, is a no-brainer,” Gwynn said. “We must take back our streets by keeping these guns out of the hands of criminals.”

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