Speed Reads

Recycled Crimes

AR-15 used in Louisville bank murders will be auctioned off under Kentucky law, Louisville mayor laments

Officials in Louisville, Kentucky, released body-camera footage Tuesday from the two officers who responded first to Monday morning's mass shooting at a bank downtown. One of the officers, Nickolas Wilt — on his fourth shift, carrying a handgun — was shot in the head by the gunman, a 25-year-old bank employee with an AR-15 rifle who could see the approaching officers from the lobby while they could not see him. The other officer, Cory Galloway, was shot but managed to kill the gunman. Wilt is in critical condition in the hospital.

The gunman, who killed five people, purchased his semiautomatic rifle legally from a local gun dealer on April 4, Louisville police said Tuesday. 

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg told reporters that under a 1998 Kentucky law, "the assault rifle that was used to murder five of our neighbors and shoot at rescuing police officers will one day be auctioned off," and more likely than not, "that murder weapon will be back on the streets." He said all he can do, legally, is remove the firing pins from the confiscated weapons, adding, "It's time to change this law and let us destroy illegal guns and destroy the guns that have been used to kill our friends and kill our neighbors."

NBC News anchor Tom Llamas asked Greenberg about the mandatory gun auctions Tuesday evening. "Under Kentucky state law, guns that are confiscated are ultimately required to be turned over to the state, who in turn auctions those guns off, and far too often they end up back on the streets," Greenberg said. "We have evidence that guns used to commit crimes end up back on the streets to commit more crimes."

"It's unclear how many auctioned guns end up being used in crimes, as no agency in the state tracks that data," the Louisville Courier-Journal reported in February, when Greenberg unveiled his plan to remove the firing pins from the thousands of confiscated guns his city is required to turn over to the State Police for auction. But a 2020 investigation by the newspaper "uncovered more than two dozen examples of guns sold at auction later resurfacing in criminal cases across the city," and "a dozen of those guns had been auctioned more than once."

The majority of Kentuckians want stricter gun laws, but instead "our state legislature voted to prohibit local law enforcement agencies in Kentucky from enforcing federal firearm regulations," the Courier-Journal said in an editorial. Greenberg, "a gun violence survivor himself," has tried to keep crime guns from being recycled, but "legalities foiled his plan," the editorial board wrote. "Many gun rights activists like to say the criminal is to blame, not the gun. But maybe, just maybe, a good start is making sure that criminals aren't provided the tools intended to do the most harm?"