Americans have experienced so many mass shootings that we have a familiar ritual of how unspeakable tragedies are reported and how their impacts are processed in the public sphere. This pattern — shock, sadness, outrage, the desire to assign blame, helplessness — can make gun violence feel inevitable and unsolvable.
But gun violence can be prevented — not only the mass shootings that dominate media coverage like recent incidents in El Paso and Dayton — but also the gun violence that disproportionately impacts the women, children and people of color who are among the 100 Americans killed every day.
Everyday gun violence happens in our homes and workplaces — the man who kills himself with a gun in a moment of crisis, the young person of color killed in a confrontation that becomes violent, the woman murdered with a gun by an ex-partner, and the police who are ambushed when they respond to her call for help.
States with stronger gun laws have less gun violence. Yet Michigan lawmakers have failed to act to reduce gun violence, and have proposed legislation that is actively dangerous.
Under Republican leadership, bills have been proposed to gut the permitting system that oversees who can carry hidden, loaded handguns in public and reducing the training required; allow guns in bars, churches, and schools; and weaken penalties for violating our concealed pistol licensing laws.
By way of justification, they invoke the “good guy with a gun” narrative, which serves the gun lobby’s interests, but has no evidence as a gun violence prevention strategy.
Lawmakers could make our communities safer with policies that address the most reliable behavioral indicators of risk for gun violence. One of the most effective strategies includes laws prohibiting domestic abusers from having guns.
Mass shooters frequently have a history of domestic violence, and in at least 54% of mass shootings, an intimate partner or family member is shot. Between 2013 to 2017, at least 201 Michiganders were killed in intimate partner homicide, with guns used in 51% of these incidents.
Domestic violence is common. According to the Michigan State Police, there were over 88,000 domestic violence incidents, including more than 12,000 aggravated domestic assaults, in 2017 alone.
Federal law prohibits abusers convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes, and those subject to domestic violence protection orders, from owning or possessing guns. However, without a state law, local law enforcement cannot adequately protect their communities.
Michigan has no such law. This spring, bipartisan legislation was introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives to prohibit domestic abusers from having guns, and to close the “boyfriend loophole” by defining a “domestic abuser” to include dating partners and stalkers.
The idea that domestic abusers should not have guns is neither partisan nor controversial, but this measure has not been scheduled for a hearing. A similar bipartisan bill failed to advance last session when the predominantly male state House Law and Justice Committee was unmoved by female lawmakers’ and stakeholders’ testimony about the dire need to protect women and children from armed abusers.
Lawmakers could advance empirically supported policies that interrupt access to firearms for people at imminent risk for gun violence. One Michigan resident dies by firearm suicide every 13 hours.
Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) or “red flag” laws allow loved ones and law enforcement to petition a court to restrict a person’s access to firearms if there is evidence that they pose a threat to self or others. States that have enacted such laws have seen firearm suicides decline significantly.
An ERPO bill introduced in the Michigan House last session and this session has never been given a hearing.
We must demand that our state lawmakers do their part to stop gun violence. Gun violence is not inevitable. It is preventable, and our lawmakers must act now.