“We’re all broken by an all-too-familiar feeling — another place that is supposed to be about community and togetherness shattered by bullets and bloodshed,” Whitmer said. “We know this is a uniquely American problem.”
After the Oxford school shooting, Michigan federal and state lawmakers introduced dozens of bills intended to curb gun violence. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D), whose district includes Oxford and Michigan State, wrote a bill requiring safe storage of guns in households. It passed the House months later but the Senate couldn’t clear.
Michigan Democrats tried to push through a similar measure holding adults accountable if they leave a gun where a minor could get it after 19 elementary schoolchildren were massacred in Uvalde, Tex., in May 2022. They introduced approximately 35 gun-related bills in the last session, all of which were blocked by Republicans who at that time controlled the state legislature.
The dynamics have changed since then. Democrats flipped the state legislature in the November midterm elections, giving the party full control of state government for the first time in decades. Whitmer outlined in her State of the State three policy changes she wants passed: universal background checks, safe storage laws and extreme-risk protection orders, also known as “red-flag laws,” that prevent a person who is deemed a threat to themselves or others from possessing a gun.
It’s unclear whether any of the proposed gun laws would have prevented Monday’s shooting, but if red-flag laws were in place and someone reported the gunman as a potential threat, it may have stopped him from possessing a gun.
Lawmakers have public opinion on their side. In a July 2022 WDIV/Detroit News poll of Michigan Republican primary voters, 91 percent said they supported expanding background checks, and 67 percent supported red-flag laws.
State Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D), who chairs the state legislature’s Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention Caucus, said this will be the first time many Republicans in the legislature are forced to take a vote on some of these popular policies, and she believes some will vote in favor of strengthening gun laws. Two Republicans have even joined the caucus, which this year has its highest membership ever, Bayer said.
Bayer has been working on gun-control laws for a decade, but she said her proposals had never had a realistic chance of passing until now. Knowing this was their best opportunity, Democrats had been taking their time on precise language for the bills in an effort to shield them from lawsuits, but Bayer said the Michigan State shooting would accelerate the process.
“We didn’t throw them at the wall this time because this time we’re going to pass them,” Bayer said. “We are trying to move along more quickly than planned … but we still want to make sure we’re doing it right.”
in a Twitter statements Tuesday, State Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R), said “these unimaginable and irrational acts of evil have become more commonplace in our society, leaving parents and community leaders desperately searching for ways to prevent these senseless attacks on the innocent.”
“It is my hope that we can come together to find and develop solutions to keep our loved ones safe,” he added, though he did not say if that included stricter gun laws. His spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Whitmer in her morning news briefing did not mention specific gun policies other than to say that “we cannot keep living like this.” Slotkin, who is considering a run for the US Senate, also spoke at the news conference and stated firmly that something had to be done.
“I cannot believe that I am here again doing this 15 months later. And I am filled with rage that we have to have another press conference to talk about our children being killed in their schools,” Slotkin said. “If this isn’t a wake-up call to do something, I don’t know what it is.”
Only a week ago there was an active-shooter scare at another high school in Slotkin’s district that turned out to be a hoax. The congresswomen shared in a long Twitter threads the sadness and anger she felt in those moments when she believed more children were at risk of gun violence.
“If we can’t keep our children safe, nothing else matters. In Michigan, we finally have a chance to pass real gun safety legislation,” she wrote Feb. 7. “In Congress, we’ll continue to keep pushing until others decide they care enough about our children to actually be part of the conversation.”
Six days later, there was another mass school shooting in her district.
More on the MSU shooting
the latest: A gunman killed three Michigan State University students and critically injured five before killing himself on Monday. Follow live updates.
The gunmen: The MSU shooter, Anthony Dwayne McRae, was arrested for carrying a loaded firearm without a concealed-weapons permit in 2019 and later lied about having a gun inside his home, his father said. McRae is not affiliated with the university and authorities are still working to determine a motive.
The victims: The university identified two of the students killed as junior Alexandria Verner and sophomore Brian Fraser, both from Michigan. Here’s what we know about the victims.