LANSING, Mich. — Hundreds of people gathered on the front lawn of the Michigan State Capitol Wednesday for a rally held in support of gun reform legislation.
Right now, 11 bills sit in front of the state legislature. They focus on red flag laws, background checks and safe storage.
With the current Democratic majority in both the state House and state Senate, passage of those bills appears to be imminent.
Gabby Giffords, a former Arizona congresswoman turned activist, also threw her support behind this legislation.
Giffords was shot in the head at a campaign event on January 8, 2011. During the mass shooting, six people were killed and 12 others were hurt.
Giffords stepped down from Congress in January of 2012. Since then, she has not only focused on her own personal recovery, but also made gun reform her life's work— turning tragedy into action.
"Change doesn't happen overnight. I can't do it alone. Join me. Let's move ahead together," Giffords said at Wednesday's rally.
16 months after the deadly attack at Oxford High School and just more than a month after the shooting at Michigan State University, Democratic state lawmakers are on the cusp of legislative change.
Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (D-7, Lansing) told FOX 17 that this legislation puts Michigan on the national stage in terms of gun reform.
"What we're doing in Michigan, celebrating it, recognizing it, we're going to be a national leader. It's just a really, really big deal," says Slotkin.
“I’m a national security person by training, I’ve spent my entire life protecting the homeland, the kids you saw here today are the homeland.” - @ElissaSlotkin // @FOX17 // @matt_witkos pic.twitter.com/RhmW5J7Hck— Ilene J. Gould (@producerilene) March 15, 2023
These efforts continue to be met with pushback from second amendment advocates.
As people like Congresswoman Slotkin, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Congresswoman Giffords took to the podium, a small group of protesters made their presence known.
"I am shouting. I am heckling. I'm hoping that some of it resonates with people," Avi Rachlin, a man from Detroit who brought his AR-15 and two handguns to the rally, said.
He says he brought his guns to remind people that there are responsible gun owners in the community.
This Detroit man protesting gun reform in Lansing. He brought his AR-15 as a demonstration and as a way to have conversation about guns. pic.twitter.com/vijiLV7uQr— Matt Witkos Reporter (@matt_witkos) March 15, 2023
Staunch second amendment supporter State Rep. Angela Rigas (R-79), who represents parts of Byron Center, Caledonia and Middleville, also joined the protesters.
Just five miles down the road from the rally, sits Michigan State's campus. Last week was spring break for students and faculty on campus, a time for many to reset and step away from East Lansing. But for people like Maya Manuel, a junior, she says even after the break, getting back into her routine has been a challenge.
"I still haven't felt like I've been able to focus and pay attention as well as I used to. A lot of the times, I find myself just creating scenarios in my head, especially after all of the students stories that I've heard, and you can't really help it," Manuel said. "It's really emotionally exhausting being in a classroom."
After the shooting, Manuel organized the first of three sitdowns and rallies at the capitol. Now, she hopes to continue that work through a new organization "Sitdown MSU."
"If we don't do anything to push now, we will lose our mobility to kind of have that action be taken so swiftly," says Manuel.
Throughout her activism, she hopes lawmakers find a way to come together.
"I don't think we should be so against each other in law. I think we have differing opinions. But when it comes down to students losing their lives, children losing their lives, I think it's something that us as students, we want to see them grow together."
She hopes that no one ever has to experience a mass shooting, like the one that killed three and hurt five other fellow MSU students.
"I'm here today to fight and share my voice."