FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — As a gun-rights supporter, Michael Paul Wolfgar Lewis sided with Kentucky lawmakers when they relaxed gun laws to let people carry a concealed firearm without a permit or training.
But as the owner of a firearms training business in suburban Louisville, Lewis said the new Kentucky law that takes effect Thursday could send him elsewhere.
"Rights are rights," he said in a recent phone interview. "It's somebody's right to carry a gun."
Lewis said he expects the law to "completely cripple" his business — which offers firearms safety classes as well as produces and sells gun holsters. He's looking to set up a business in Florida but hasn't decided whether to keep open his Louisville-area operation. In Florida, those wishing to carry concealed weapons must obtain a permit, complete a firearms training course and get a background check.
The gun-related measure, backed by the National Rifle Association, is part of a large stack of laws passed by Kentucky's Republican-led legislature this year that will take effect Thursday.
Kentuckians able to lawfully possess a firearm will soon be able to conceal their weapons without a license or safety training. The law, which applies to people at least 21 years old, doesn't change where and when people can possess concealed weapons.
As it advanced through the legislature, the measure drew opposition from some law enforcement groups as well as the Kentucky chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a nationwide organization working to curb gun violence.
The law's supporters said Kentuckians already could carry weapons openly without training. But before the new law, if they carried a gun under a coat, they needed a permit.
Lewis' business had grown steadily and had been training about 1,000 people on firearms safety each year, but the number of people signing up for classes started dropping once the new law surfaced, he said.
Gun owners can still sign up for safety classes voluntarily. Lewis sees it as a way for gun owners to show personal responsibility and promote safety for themselves and others. But he expects sign-ups for safety classes to keep plummeting once the law takes effect.
That has him looking for a place to start over.
"It's a business move for me, even though I agree with Kentucky's bill and I think the legislators did really good with it," he said. "I've still got to feed my family."
Other new laws taking effect in Kentucky will:
- Give pregnant women the right to request "modest" accommodations on the job, such as more frequent breaks or lighter duties.
- Make it easier for some people convicted of nonviolent felonies to erase their records. It lowers a required fee and expands the number of felonies eligible for expungement.
- Require public elementary and secondary schools, beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, to display "In God We Trust" in a prominent location, which could include school entryways, cafeterias or common areas where students are likely to see the words.