Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) signed into law this week a bill which makes it a hate crime to attack a police officer or first responder.
The measure, unofficially known as a Blue Lives Matter bill, will go into effect in the summer, the Courier-Journal reported.
It follows similar legislation first passed in Louisiana last year, where a gunman shot six Baton Rouge police officers last July, killing three, Fox News reports.
Abby Huntsman discussed the new Kentucky law with State Rep. Kevin Bratcher (R), who first proposed the measure. She noted that 64 officers were killed by gunfire nationwide in 2016, compared to 41 in 2015.
Twenty-one of those deaths came in ambush-style attacks.
Bratcher said he believes the bill will help reduce the number of attacks on police officers.
“If you’re going to mess with our finest, the men and women in blue, firefighters and EMT’s, then you’re gonna get the full brunt of Kentucky law,” said Bratcher, highlighting the 2013 ambush murder of Bardstown Officer Jason Ellis.
Opponents of the legislation argued that it’s difficult to prove that certain attacks on police officers should be hate crimes and that state law already stipulates harsher penalties for such attacks.
A local Black Lives Matter leader said last month that the bill is “so insensitive to the community of color and people who hate crime laws actually represent.”
Kentucky already has extra penalties for harming police officers on the books. Determining that an act qualifies as a hate crime wouldn’t necessarily result in a more severe punishment for the person responsible.