Michigan state GOP lawmakers continue to block Democrats' gun safety bills

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Six months after a deadly school shooting in Michigan, state Republican lawmakers still refuse to act.

On Wednesday, following the fatal shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Democrats in the Michigan Senate moved to discharge gun safety bills from the body's Government Operations Committee and bring them to the floor for a vote, but were blocked by their Republican colleagues, who control both chambers of the Legislature. 

"There are political solutions," said state Sen. Ken Horn during a speech on the Senate floor. "But there are just as many spiritual solutions. We don't know what is really happening in this world, what is happening in this country, what is happening to young men."

The four bills, numbered S.B. 550 through S.B. 553, were first introduced following the Nov. 30, 2021, shooting at Oxford High School in Oakland County, Michigan, in which a student killed four students and wounded seven other people, including a teacher. 

The bills stipulate criminal penalties for the improper storage of firearms in the event that an improperly stored gun is taken by a minor and used to injure somebody and for the sale of firearms to minors or to people with felony convictions. They would also require gun dealers to provide buyers with written notice of such legal requirements.

Republicans refused to consider the bills, saying that it was not the right time. Instead, they voted unanimously to send the bills back to the Government Operations Committee.

State Sen. Rosemary Bayer told Michigan Radio on Wednesday, "We took some action today to try to cause something to happen."  While admitting that Democratic lawmakers did not succeed, she said this does not mean they are done. 

"We have been trying to pass some gun safety regulations for a long time here in Michigan," she said. "The bills that we were going to introduce, they're proven effective. There are states that have some common sense regulation stuff and they have far less issues with shootings than we do." Of particular importance, she said, was "having the idea of a basic package of bills that do safe storage, that define how to safely store a firearm and some kind of accountability if a minor gets possession of your gun and uses it to hurt themselves or somebody else."

According to the gun safety organization Everytown for Gun Safety, Michigan ranks 24th in the nation for gun safety based on the strength of the state's current gun safety laws. Michigan lacks critical laws such as prohibitions against assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.  

Additionally, the state has no laws prohibiting guns from being carried on the state Capitol grounds, at public demonstrations, or in bars. It has no extreme risk laws, which allow law enforcement and family members to petition a court to temporarily remove a firearm from any individual deemed a danger to themselves or others; nor does it have laws banning firearms sales to domestic abusers, including convicted abusers and those under domestic abuse restraining orders. 

According to Everytown, 1,270 people are killed every year in Michigan by guns. 

After Wednesday's initiative was denied in the Senate, Democrats were swift to criticize their Republican colleagues. State Sen. Jeff Irwin, in an emotional speech, asked lawmakers what they were going to do to address the gun violence in the nation: 

What are we going to do to try to prevent another one of these tragedies from happening? We have a motion and we have legislation that could make a difference, that could make our kids safer, that could make our schools safer. And what's happening? What's happening is that once again Republicans are trying to bury any action. They are trying to bury any action to try to make our schools safer and make our kids safer, and they are doing it at the behest of the gun lobby, they are doing it at the behest of a minority of citizens who are putting their right to own any gun of any type above the safety of our people.

State Sen. Erika Geiss tweeted, "This morning on the #mileg senate floor, @MISenDems attempted to discharge to the floor (to vote on) several of our gun violence prevention bills. Senate republicans blocked it and claim that 'this is not the time.' When the fuck is the time? Smdh."

In a comment emailed to TAIF on Thursday, the gun safety group End Gun Violence Michigan said:

It has been 6 months since the tragic school shooting in Oxford, Michigan, and already we are overwhelmed with more mass killings. In that 6 months, the Michigan legislature has done absolutely nothing to stop it from happening again. And we can see that it will happen again and again unless we change our laws. We're calling for all people of conscience to march with us on June 4 to demand our politicians put our lives and our children's lives ahead of the demands of the gun lobby.

The group is considering a ballot initiative in 2024 to establish stricter gun laws if the Legislature fails to do so. 

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.