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Last updated on Friday, January 10, 2014
(FRANKFORT, Ky.) - A Kentucky lawmaker said Wednesday that she accidentally fired a gun in her Capitol Annex office on the first day of the legislative session this week, prompting a police investigation. No one was hurt.
Democratic Rep. Leslie Combs of Pikeville issued a statement saying the shot was fired unintentionally Tuesday and that state police assigned to the Capitol found no evidence to indicate any portion of the discharged round left her office.
Combs did not offer details, but a House colleague who said he was in her office at the time described it as an accident.
"She was emptying the weapon and she thought that it was empty and pointed it away and down and pulled the trigger and it went off," said Rep. Jeff Greer, D-Brandenburg. "Thankfully, no one was hurt. I know she feels terrible about it. ... It's just an unfortunate event."
Greer said he had stopped by Combs' office to talk about legislation. The two lawmakers were the only ones in her office when the shot from the semi-automatic handgun was fired, he said.
Kentucky State Police Sgt. Jason Palmer, who heads the legislative security unit, said there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing and that no charges would be filed.
Investigators recovered bullet fragments in the office, and there was no indication any fragment went outside the office, he said.
Combs' statement said she obtained a concealed-carry permit several years ago for safety reasons, and noted that she does considerable traveling, sometimes at night. She was present in the House chamber Wednesday, but did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
State law allows Combs and other lawmakers to have weapons in their offices and to even bring them into the chamber if they wish, said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.
Stumbo said "a number" of legislators have concealed-carry permits, but he said he doesn't know how many carry weapons at the Capitol.
"Leslie, I know, is very concerned and probably somewhat embarrassed by the situation," Stumbo said.
Kentucky has a strong heritage of gun-ownership rights that is embraced by the Legislature.
Combs said in her statement that she is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights and the state's concealed-carry law. She also advocated gun safety programs as "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."
The incident prompted one group to call for Combs' resignation.
The Kentucky chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said lawmakers should be held to the highest standards and never put others at risk.
"As a concealed-carry permit holder, Rep. Combs should understand the risks of handling a loaded gun within close proximity of others. She not only put her own life in danger, but that of her colleague," said Tracey Goodlett, leader of the Kentucky chapter.
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