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Lawmakers debate gun control package aimed at curbing gun violence

Supreme Court Guns
Posted at 7:29 PM, Mar 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-02 16:05:19-05

LANSING, Mich. — Nearly a dozen speakers gave powerful testimony Wednesday, urging Michigan lawmakers to take action against gun violence.

"This law could be the difference between a family gathering for a funeral or a celebration. I want Michiganders to have more reasons to celebrate and fewer reasons to grieve," Kelly Sampson, the Senior Counsel and Director of Racial Justice from The Brady Campaign, said.

This testimony came after state representatives unveiled new legislation Tuesday, which aims to answer the calls for action.

Other voices who spoke to the committee include people from Moms Demand Action, Sandy Hook Promise, former Republican Congressman Fred Upton and current Michigan State University student Carl Austin Miller Grondin, the Student Body Vice President for Internal Administration.

"We have grown up in this violence and this should not be our reality," Grondin explained. "We are scared, unsure how to cope and do not know what the future may bring. But this happened to our home and it could have been prevented. While our community is grieving, we will not stop until no other student has to endure the nightmare of another school shooting like we have. The students have said it repeatedly. And we want change, we demand change."

Everytown for Gun Safety, along with the Michigan chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, held a press call Wednesday morning.

During the call, Saylor Reinders, President of the MSU Chapter of Students Demand Action, spoke alongside lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, Speaker of the House Joe Tate and Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist.

"So while I should be in class today, I'm here instead, once again asking lawmakers to put our safety first. I didn't think this could ever happen at MSU, but when the shots rang out and I watched my fellow students spring into action, I realized that we've been preparing for a nightmare like this one our entire lives," Reinders said.

It's a nightmare Michiganders have experienced not once, but twice in the last fifteen months.

A well wisher kneels to pray at a memorial on the sign of Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. A 15-year-old sophomore opened fire at the school, killing several students and wounding multiple other people, including a teacher. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

On November 30, 2021, the Oxford School Shooting took the lives of four teenagers and hurt seven others.

On February 13, 2023, a gunman opened fire on Michigan State's campus, killing three students and hurting five others.

Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist reminded people of a painful reality Wednesday morning: "All of us have been touched directly by gun violence, this destructive and completely preventable scourge on life."

Spartans gather in front of the MSU Rock which reads "How Many More?"
Spartans gather in front of the MSU Rock which reads "How Many More?"

With the pain of both Oxford and MSU still fresh, Democratic lawmakers are trying to deliver on a legislative promise. "Nobody should be afraid to go outside, to go to school, to go to the store, to go to college, to go to work," Lt. Gov. Gilchrist added. "We can do something about that."

On February 16, just three days after the MSU shooting, the State Senate introduced a series of eleven bills that aim to tackle gun safety.

Then, the House introduced their parallel versions of the same bills on February 28.

Democratic lawmakers say they recognize the weight of doing this properly, but they also hope the bills move through the legislative process quickly.

"We want to be able to move as quickly as possible to get them on the floor. But we want to make sure also that we are having deliberations as well," says House Speaker Joe Tate.

The bills fall into three categories: universal background checks, safe storage laws and extreme risk protection orders.

Democratic State Rep. Kristian Grant (D-82), who represents Southeast Grand Rapids, sponsored HB 4143, which puts the "universal" in "universal background checks."

HB 4138 requires background checks, and as Rep. Grant puts it, her bill specifically expands HB 4138 so that background checks apply to more than just pistols, but also rifles and other types of guns.

Rep. Grant says she is a gun owner, and as a single mom, she says she believes in making sure that she has the ability to protect her family against harm. But, she says that in order to have that power to protect her family, she should pass a background check.

This legislation is something she also hopes will help protect Grand Rapids youth, from accessing guns illegally.

"I'm not naïve to say that this will cure it all, it will solve it all. But if we can stop it in a small amount, while also pairing that with programs and support that will engage our youth and encourage them to take other actions provide [them with] other opportunities, we need to do that as well."

According to a statewide EPIC-MRA Poll released in September of 2022, 90% of people polled said they support universal background checks on all gun sales. In addition, 82% said they support safe storage laws while 73% support establishing an extreme risk protection order.

EPIC-MRA: Poll on Gun Safety Issues and Proposals
EPIC-MRA: Poll on Gun Safety Issues and Proposal

"This is basic stuff, this is not controversial. It's common sense," Lt. Gov. Gilchrist added.

But for some Republicans and Second Amendment activists, this legislation is controversial.

The organization Great Lakes Gun Rights, vowed to recall lawmakers who support and vote for this gun control legislation.

“Michigan Democrats are charging ahead with anti-gun proposals that would make California blush. We urge Michigan Democrats to drop their politically motivated gun control push and for Republicans to oppose all these bills. If they do not relent, we’re preparing to work with local activists and voters in districts across the state to recall any lawmaker who votes for these gun control bills.”  

Their statement also says, in these efforts, Great Lakes Gun Rights would receive assistance from National Association for Gun Rights Vice President Joe Neville who successfully recalled three democratic state senators in Colorado after the Colorado General Assembly enacted several gun control measures in 2013.

On Tuesday, both the Kent County GOP and Ottawa County GOP released resolutions, calling on their county's board of commissioners, sheriff and prosecutor to declare their county as a "sanctuary county" for Second Amendment rights.

They also called on the same group, to "defend" people's rights from any kind of legal infringement.

But former republican Congressman Fred Upton, a Second Amendment supporter, says these laws don't actually infringe on anyone's rights.

FOX 17 talked with the former Congressman ahead of his testimony, and he said this legislation is not "disarming legitimate rights of folks across the country, but it'll help law enforcement try and prevent something from happening." He added that these bills are just more "tools in the toolbox."

Fred Upton

Upton, alongside former republican Congressman Dave Trott, released a joint statement Tuesday, urging their fellow republicans to support the legislation.

“As strong supporters of the Second Amendment and proud Republicans, we feel it is our duty to come out in support of this legislation. Students, educators, and parents in Michigan have suffered through multiple mass shootings in the past fifteen months, and Michiganders deserve action.

"This common sense gun safety reform will save lives by getting illegal guns off our streets while helping law enforcement protect our families. It will keep students, victims of domestic violence, and families safe.

"We must directly address the causes of violent crime that have become all too common in our cities, in schools, and in everyday life -- these bills do just that. That is why we urge all members of the Michigan legislature — regardless of party — to vote yes on these bills. It’s time.”

Joint Statement from Former Republican Congressmen Fred Upton & Dave Trott
Joint Statement from Former Republican Congressmen Fred Upton & Dave Trott

On Wednesday, democratic lawmakers echoing Upton and Trott's sentiments on bipartisanship. But Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks also says, "we are prepared to move this with or without bipartisan support." However, Brinks adds that she believes there will be some support from Republicans.

Upton said, "What we saw at Michigan State, I just hope is the straw that finally breaks the back of getting some common sense stuff done."

And as Michigan State students return to class and continue to grieve, Reinders is also pushing for lawmakers to work together to help stop this new "normal."

"Our generation has been forced to grow up living in fear of the next shooting. We practice staying quiet and out of sight. We practice how to run hide and fight. This isn't normal," Reinders added.