After two mass shootings within hours of each other on Saturday at an El Paso Walmart and outside a bar in Dayton, Ohio, there’s been a lot of talk about how nothing will be done to reform state and federal gun laws.
This fatalism can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. But this passive construction also, however unintentionally, lets Republicans off the hook. Inaction doesn’t just happen. It’s a political choice and a strategy.
The reason why Congress will likely fail to act on gun control is the GOP-led Senate is against it, egged on by its allies in the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA). The Democratic-controlled U.S. House passed the first gun reforms in years, which includes universal background checks and an assault weapons ban. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has proudly said that the Senate is where progressive legislation goes to die and called himself the “Grim Reaper.”
It’s the same pattern for Republicans at the state level, with only a few exceptions. In Michigan, there hasn’t been a lack of trying to solve our gun problem. Democrats have introduced several bills. And there is some bipartisan legislation, as well.
But Republicans in charge of the Legislature, state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), have yet to move any legislation.
Chatfield escaped gun charges back in 2018 when he tried to bring a loaded, unregistered pistol in an airport, but a GOP prosecutor declined to prosecute him. He paid a $1,960 fine. On Sunday, Chatfield did acknowledge in a tweet the problem of racism, as the El Paso shooter allegedly targeted Latinos and left behind a white supremacist manifesto.
Americans have always had access to guns, but mass shootings are on the rise. We all need to admit America has a racism problem. It’s disgusting. It's wrong. White supremacy is evil. I don't know the solution, but let’s unite as Americans and learn to love & respect each other.
— Lee Chatfield (@LeeChatfield) August 4, 2019
Chatfield’s passing reference that “Americans have always had access to guns” isn’t inspiring a lot of optimism from gun reform advocates, however.
But just like in the U.S. Senate, Republicans in Michigan could take action if they wanted to. Here’s some gun reform legislation just waiting to be taken up:
‘Red flag’ legislation
This type of legislation has had bipartisan support at the federal level and passed the U.S. House. A person’s firearms could be taken and s/he could be prevented from buying new ones if a protection order is in effect for those who judge deems to be at risk to themselves or others. Immediate family members, current and former spouses or partners, roommates and law enforcement are able to ask the judge for that order.
- SB 156, sponsored by state Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak)
- SB 157, sponsored by Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor)
- SB 158, sponsored by Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills)
- HB 4283, sponsored by state Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Huntington Woods)
- HB 4284, sponsored by Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo)
- HB 4285, sponsored by Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Twp.)
Require background checks at gun ranges
Gun ranges and other shooting facilities would be required to check concealed pistol licenses or run background checks before renting out firearms.
- HB 4690, sponsored by Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt)
Make unsafe gun storage a felony
Aimed at preventing accidental shootings, especially among children who discover guns in houses, Democrats introduced a package of bills.
- HB 4511, sponsored by Rep. Mari Manoogian (D-Birmingham)
- HB 4512, sponsored by Rep. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor)
- HB 4513, sponsored by Warren
- HB 4514, sponsored by Manoogian
Clamp down on domestic abusers using firearms
Legislation has been introduced to make it a felony for someone convicted of domestic violence to possess or use a gun.
- HB 4497, sponsored by Rep. Daire Rendon (R-Lake City)
- HB 4498, sponsored by Rendon
- HB 4499, sponsored by Rep. John Chirkun (D-Roseville)
Expanding gun rights
There’s more legislation in Michigan to broaden gun rights, which may have a better shot of passing the GOP-controlled Legislature, although Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is likely to veto much of it:
Expanding concealed weapon carry to schools, bars, churches and more
A version of this legislation allowing guns to be carried in gun-free zones was vetoed by then-Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, in 2012 after the Sandy Hook shooting in which a gunman went into a Connecticut elementary school and shot and killed 27 people, mostly first-graders.
- HB 4026, sponsored by Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain)
- HB 4027, sponsored by Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Twp.)
Reduce the penalty for violating gun-free zone law
This legislation passed a state House committee in May. It doesn’t get rid of gun-free zones, but only makes the penalty for carrying a gun into a school, church, etc. a mere $100 and you wouldn’t get your license revoked.
Allow concealed carry without a permit
- HB 4029, sponsored by Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland)
- HB 4770, sponsored by Johnson
- HB 4771, sponsored by Rep. John Reilly (R-Oakland Twp.)
- HB 4773, sponsored by Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford)
Reduce penalty for expired concealed carry permit
The penalty for carrying a concealed pistol on an expired license would be reduced from a felony to a civil fine if the license expired within a year.
- HB 4434, sponsored by Rep. Matt Hall (R-Emmett Twp.)
Allow transporting a loaded shotgun in a vehicle
- HB 4331, sponsored by LaFave
Allow retired police to carry in gun-free zones
- HB 4097, sponsored by Rendon
Allow firearms instructors to carry in gun-free zones
- HB 4295, sponsored by Eisen