Sep 30, 2023

Former Louisville mayor Jerry Abramson calls for stricter gun laws following mass shooting

Abramson penned an opinion article in the Washington Post calling for the U.S. to ban assault-style guns.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson advocated for stricter gun laws during an interview on WDRB Mornings days after a mass shooting in downtown Louisville.

Abramson, who served 20 years as the city's mayor, held the position during one of the nation's first workplace shootings was at the Standard Gravure printing plant in downtown Louisville on Sept. 14, 1989. Disgruntled employee Joseph Wesbecker went on a shooting spree that day, armed with an AK-47, a pistol and a duffel bag of ammunition. He shot 20 people, killing eight, before taking his own life.

Abramson wrote in the Washington Post on Oct. 2, 1989, that he "never thought it would happen in my city. It is deeply disturbing to realize that it is not an isolated incident and that it can happen anywhere." He later went on to write, "We must act now, because the use of assault weapons to commit violent criminal acts is increasing at an alarming rate."

Wesbecker was on disability from the printing plant due to mental illness and taking Prozac at the time of the attack. Abramson said the issues of assault weapons and mental health were heavily discussed after the shooting in 1989. He said those same issues are being discussed after a gunman killed five people and injured eight inside a bank building Monday.

"What really hurts is that was 34 years ago when that happened," Abramson said. "We walked away from that, 'mass shooting' wasn't even part of the lexicon at that point in this country. We were one of the first workplace, violent act mass shooting. As I was pulling bodies out with my deputy mayor Bill Summers, to see what an assault weapon can do to a human being's body, you certainly understand why they are used for war, not used for a domestic weapon. It shouldn't be in the United States."

In 1994, the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act federally banned assault weapons like AK-47s, Uzis and TEC-9s. Abramson helped push for the ban in his role of president of U.S. Conference of Mayors.

"We worked with Congress to bring about that change with our police officers because the officers were being outgunned on the streets of their cities," Abramson said.

The ban, signed by then President Bill Clinton, outlawed 19 types of military-style assault weapons for 10 years. A clause directed that the ban expire unless Congress specifically reauthorized it, which it did not.

"There was a significant decrease in the number of mass shootings in America, what a surprise," Abramson said. "You see it makes a difference in the quality of life and crime rate in cities across this country. Please expand it. They did not extend it. As a result, here we are today."

Abramson said the U.S. needs to ban the sale of assault weapons to prevent mass shootings, along with financial supporting mental health.

"Nobody goes out to shoot a deer with an assault weapon," said Abramson, who served for the U.S. Army. "Assault weapons are weapons of war. When I was in the military, AK-47s, now AR-15s, those were used in the war setting on the battlefield."

He wants families to be offered more opportunities to be supported with mental health issues. He also recommended a "red flag" law in Kentucky. A "red flag" law allows police to step in and take firearms away from people who threaten to kill.

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