Bills to Address Gun Violence Languish in Legislature Amid Calls for Action

Calls for action to address gun violence have been reinvigorated after this month’s mass school shooting in Oxford.

Michigan State Capitol building on a sunny day

The horrific mass school shooting in Oxford continues to dominate so many conversations here in Michigan. And increasingly, those conversations have turned toward what could have been done to prevent this from happening.

MichMash hosts Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth look at efforts at the state Capitol, new and old, to address gun violence, and the reasons those bills have languished.

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State Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills) represents the 12th state Senate district, which includes Oxford. It just so happens she’s also the co-chair of Michigan’s legislative Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention Caucus. And it just so happens that she had new gun legislation she was already planning to introduce new gun legislation within the past week.

The new bill would ban the sale and possession of gun magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. It would be a misdemeanor punishable up to 90 days in jail, or a fine of up to $500. People who already own high-capacity magazines could keep them, but would have to report them to local law enforcement. 

Bayer told Stephen Henderson on WDET’s Detroit Today that this law would have made a difference in the Oxford High School shooting.

“We know that mattered last week,” she said. “That would have been reduced. Less shots would have been fired. Less bullets would have been fired.”

Related: Michigan Senator Who Represents Oxford Introducing Bills to Limit Sale of High-Capacity Gun Magazines

Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said after the shooting that the 15-year-old suspect had three 15-round magazines on him.

Bayer also notes that this isn’t the only bill that Democrats have introduced recently meant to curb gun violence. In fact, it’s one in a long list of firearms bills that are languishing at the state Capitol. They include measures that would require universal background checks on all gun sales, ban people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses from possessing guns for eight years and allow local governments to ban guns on property they own or lease.

But maybe the most significant bill in the wake of the Oxford school shooting was introduced all the way back in June. It would require gun owners to secure their guns so that minors wouldn’t have easy access to them. Michigan does not have a specific safe storage law on the books. That’s an issue that has received a lot of attention recently, because Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald charged the suspect’s parents with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, each due to the fact that the gun he allegedly used in the shooting was easily available to him. 

In fact, McDonald says his parents bought the gun for him as a Christmas present.

“We know that mattered last week [in Oxford]. That would have been reduced. Less shots would have been fired. Less bullets would have been fired.” –State Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills)

State Senate democrats say they also plan to soon re-introduce so-called “red flag” legislation, which would allow a family member or law enforcement to report an individual who they think might be a threat to themselves or others. A judge could then grant an order to temporarily block that individual from having access to firearms before a hearing.

Although conversations about reducing gun violence have picked up in recent days, these bills have little-to-no chance of getting through the state Legislature. Republicans control both chambers and don’t have much interest at all in tightening Michigan’s gun laws. In fact, the day after the shooting in Oxford, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey told reporters, “If we get obsessed with eliminating all risks, we will then develop and evolve into a country we won’t recognize, because we’ll also have no freedoms.”

However, Bayer says that Shirkey had at one point promised her a hearing on gun legislation. Not a vote, but a hearing, she emphasized. She says she hopes that promise might be the “first crack in the door.”

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  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.
  • Jake Neher
    Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.