FRANKFORT — Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, accidentally discharged her handgun in her Capitol Annex office Tuesday afternoon while another lawmaker was present.
No one was injured and Combs faces no charges stemming from the incident.
“I accidentally discharged a firearm in my legislative office in the Capitol Annex,” Combs said in a statement. “No one was hurt or in harm’s way and I followed standard safety procedures when this accident occurred.”
Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg, was seated in Combs’ office at the time the gun went off. Greer said he was never in danger.
“She was unloading the gun and had removed the clip,” Greer explained. “But apparently there was still a round in the chamber and she followed safety procedure and pointed the gun down and away before it discharged.”
According to Sgt. Jason Palmer, head of Kentucky State Police Legislative Security, the firearm was a Kruger LCP .380, automatic pistol. Combs purchased the gun last year from fellow lawmaker, Rep. John Short, D-Hindman, a licensed gun dealer.
Greer said the bullet struck the floor, causing carpet fibers to swirl in the air, and ricocheted into a bookcase. He said he was startled by the discharge but never thought he was in any danger.
Combs said she has had a concealed-carry weapon permit for several years “to better protect my safety as I travel widely and sometimes at night.”
The incident occurred around 2:30 p.m. EST Tuesday but security officers weren’t contacted until around 4:30 p.m. when Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, called and asked they investigate the incident.
“I’m not sure why they didn’t call us when it happened,” Palmer said when asked about the two-hour delay.
He said Combs faces no charges over the incident.
“It’s legal for lawmakers to carry a weapon anywhere in the Capitol if they have a concealed carry license,” Palmer said. He confirmed Greer’s account that the bullet hit the floor and eventually lodged in the bookcase.
Stumbo later said by law Combs or any other lawmaker with a license to carry a weapon may carry it onto the House floor. Non-lawmakers who have a license may carry a weapon in the Capitol but are not permitted to bring the weapon into the gallery area. No one, even lawmakers, is permitted to carry a weapon into the Supreme Court’s chambers.
“Leslie, I know, is very concerned and probably somewhat embarrassed,” Stumbo said. “It was an unfortunate incident, what the state police call an unintentional discharge, and thank God nobody was hurt.”
Stumbo said he doesn’t know how many lawmakers are armed during the General Assembly sessions, but he said he has a permit and he knows others who do.
Greer said he isn’t one of them, although he has a permit too.
“I don’t pack,” Greer said. “But I have a number of friends up here who do.”
Stumbo said he sees no reason to change the law which allows lawmakers to be armed in the capitol or on the chamber floors.
“I don’t see anything that needs to be changed,” he said. “I mean, it was an unintentional discharge. I think it’s good policy that people like Leslie, females who work here late, have to go to their cars or functions, sometimes are traveling by themselves have a right to carry a weapon and protect themselves.”
Rep. Rita Smart, D-Richmond, was in her office in the same suite when Combs’ gun fired.
“Well, it created some excitement for a few minutes,” Smart said. “But it was sort of like a fitting way to end our day.”
Smart had earlier that day made a floor speech defending the actions of a committee charged with investigating allegations of sexual harassment against a former lawmaker.
Combs said she is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and the state’s concealed-carry law, “and believe just as strongly that gun safety and education must be part of that equation.
“I urge everyone to be extremely cautious with their firearm,” she said. “I know from personal experience how easy it is to discharge a firearm accidentally.”
Combs has been mentioned as a potential candidate for lieutenant governor on a Democratic ticket with Attorney General Jack Conway.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.