Photos of three men posing with guns in the Kentucky State Capitol have raised questions about security protocol in Frankfort.
Kentucky United, a gun rights group, held a rally outside the Capitol building Tuesday morning to protest several pieces of proposed gun control legislation in the Kentucky General Assembly, which kicked off its 2020 legislative session later in the day.
One of the proposed measures is a “red flag” law, which would allow for emergency orders that temporarily remove guns from Kentuckians deemed an immediate threat to themselves and others.
On Tuesday afternoon, the photos of the men bearing weapons in the Capitol Rotunda circulated on social media. Steve Dattilo, one of the men featured in the photos, said it was his first time in the state Capitol.
Dattilo, a 45-year-old veteran from Shelby County, said he came to the rally because the proposed gun legislation “brings a reality of what people are trying to do as far as taking our rights away.”
Before trying to go into the Capitol, Dattilo said, he and his friends talked to a state trooper who told them: “This is your house. This is your Capitol. You’re more than welcome to come in.”
From there, the men entered with their loaded weapons, checked with state troopers, handed over their IDs, went through metal detectors and were logged in.
“We checked the legalities of it before we even entered the building,” Dattilo said. “We were perfectly well within our rights to enter the Capitol building.”
The photos drew criticism from some public educators, who faced a stricter protocol last year when trying to bring smaller items into the Capitol as they came to protest legislation.
“Guns in the rotunda,” Nema Brewer, a Fayette County public schools employee and founder of KY 120 United, said in a tweet Tuesday afternoon. “Teachers & public employees were not allowed to carry signs or umbrellas into the Capitol.”
Guns in the rotunda. Teachers &
Public employees were not allowed to carry signs or umbrellas into the Capitol. I expect to be able to open carry when I am there again. #120Strong #kyga20 pic.twitter.com/R5fCLYXYK1
— “That” Nema (@nema) January 7, 2020
In the past two years, thousands of teachers flooded the state Capitol to protest several pieces of legislation, including plans to restructure their pensions, and then-Gov. Matt Bevin.
On the first day of the 2019 legislative session, visitors were greeted with restrictions on where they could go — such as the tunnel linking the Capitol Annex and the Capitol itself — and what they could bring inside the building.
Among the list of items prohibited in the Capitol Annex and the Capitol were umbrellas, toilet paper, pillows or blankets, banners and outside fast food, according to a January 2019 Facebook post of the list by activist Don Pratt.
Jeni Bolander, a KY 120 United leader, said on Twitter on Tuesday that she couldn’t tell “how many times my purse was searched because we were dangerous teachers who ‘might’ be armed.”
Lemme get this straight, as a teacher, I couldn’t bring an umbrella, a sign on a stick, water, or a snack to the Capitol the past two years. Can’t tell you how many times my purse was searched because we were dangerous teachers who “might” be armed, but this is ok??? Got it. pic.twitter.com/ytrTml649i
— Dr. Jay (@jeni_ward) January 7, 2020
Written by Ben Tobin. Cross-posted from the
Courier-Journal via the Kentucky Press News Service.