Paducah reviews park gun law

Ed Marlowe
Staff writer

Nick Paxton/The News

On Tuesday, Aug. 23, Paducah city commissioners continued to move toward altering two city ordinances to allow people to openly carry firearms in city parks.
Sgt. Mark McCuiston,  Calloway County/Murray Police Department shift supervisor  shed some light on the ordinances of Calloway County and Murray in regard to gun regulation.
“The only place you cannot have a firearm is in the Justice Building,” McCuiston said. “You can even have a firearm in the police station, as long as you are in the lobby.”
McCuiston said it is the discretion of local businesses to set their own laws and regulations regarding guns, but legally anyone who is a non-convicted felon and of legal age can carry a gun anywhere countrywide.
“Right now there are no laws or ordinances in place to limit carrying weapons of any kind,” McCuiston said.
According to the Murray State Student Handbook, regardless of licenses or county, state or national law, students and faculty are not allowed to carry concealed weapons.
“The possession, whether open or concealed, of any weapon including, but not limited to, firearms, explosives, BB guns, throwing stars, knives with blades of more than four inches, and any weapon or an imitation that could be used to cause fear in another person is prohibited,” the handbook states.
Previously, Paducah city ordinances did not allow for guns to be present on a person inside of a city park.
The call for change to city laws is a result of McCracken County resident Charley Pulley bringing the ordinances to attention at a commissioner meeting in early June.
Pulley brought his gun with him to the meeting, but had it removed from Chief James Barry before entering the commissioner’s chambers.
Pulley said he hesitantly conceded the holster and attended the meeting unarmed.
In response, Pulley wrote a letter to Paducah City Manager Jeff Pederson regarding Barry’s actions.
In a short letter, Pederson responded that people have the right to feel safe in a public forum and backed Barry’s actions.
“I was appalled that (Pederson) did not only refuse to correct the chief’s actions but further condoned them,” Pulley told the Paducah Sun on June 26. “In his response, (Pederson) said he believes people have a right to feel safe in the commission chambers.”
Pulley defended his rights more directly.
“In reading through the Bill of Rights, one does not see the right to feel safe written anywhere,” Pulley said. “There is a good reason for this folks, and that is because people fear things illogically.”
Pederson also said in the letter that the issue would be addressed at the next commissioner’s meeting on June 14.
Pulley attended the meeting and spoke at the commission, lobbying to have the law changed. At the meeting, Pulley stressed that both he and his family wanted to feel protected in public and that carrying a gun in a city park was his right.
Paducah Mayor Bill Paxton, and part of the City Commission, defended both Pederson and Barry’s actions at the June 14 meeting.
“Counties have gotten that law amended,” Paxton told the Paducah Sun. “They do not have to allow someone with a gun coming into the Commission chambers. As president of the Kentucky League of Cities, I intend to do everything I can to make the legislators aware of that.”
Paxton was uneasy to let this pass through legislation, but later admitted that it was a law that must be abided.
“It doesn’t make you feel real safe to have people running around our parks with guns,” Paxton said. “But those are the laws so we’ll abide by them.”
Said Paxton to Pulley at the June 14 meeting:  “You can stand there and say whatever you like but we’re the ones who are intimidated.”
Pam Spencer, Paducah public information officer, said  soon after the meetings, city attorneys looked into Pulley’s claim and found that he was correct about the county laws and his right to carry a gun in city parks.
“Once the lawyers looked into it, the ordinances were amended to conform to state law,” Spencer said. “(Pulley) was very thorough in his research.”
Spencer said that 28 city parks and the skate park fall under the new statute and that signage prohibiting gun-carrying either has already been or will be removed in the near future.
He also lobbied Judge Executive Van Newberry to have the county remove signage from county parks prohibiting gun-carrying.
McCracken Fiscal Court agreed last month to remove signs barring guns from Carson Park.
“In my opinion he has done his homework,” Newberry told the Paducah Sun on June 26.
Kentucky is one of 13 states that allows persons over the age of 18 to carry a non-concealed weapon on themselves or in their vehicle without a permit or license. A concealed-carry license must still be obtained to keep the weapon from view of the public.
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