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One day after Uvalde shooting, Michigan GOP Senators reject vote on safe gun storage

One GOP Senator said it was 'too early' to discuss the bills introduced in June 2021
Posted at 6:35 PM, May 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 19:07:33-04

LANSING, Mich. — One day after 19 children were killed in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, lawmakers on the Michigan Senate floor considered two bills that would strengthen penalties against those who fail to safely lock and store their firearms. They didn’t debate long.

Immediately, Republicans rejected a vote on SB550 and SB553, suggesting that it was not the right time to discuss gun control legislation a day after a mass shooting, but six months after the bills were reintroduced in the wake of the Oxford school shooting that left four Michigan students dead.

“These families are grieving. They are still at a point where the weight is so heavy on their chest that they can’t breathe,” said Sen. Ken Horn, (R) – Frankenmuth. “They don’t give a flying frog what we do here in the Senate. Right now, they’re not paying attention to us. It’s way too early to assign bill numbers to their grief.”

In fact though, the bills were first introduced back in 2021, and varying polls show anywhere from 40% to 59% of Americans favor stricter gun laws, despite a recent decline in that percentage. Sen. Horn declined to comment on when the right time to discuss the bills would be.

On Wednesday, visibly frustrated Democrats wondered the same thing.

“We have legislation that could make a difference, that could make our kids safer, that could make our schools safer,” said Sen. Jeff Irwin, (D) – Ann Arbor. “And what’s happening? What’s happening is that once again, Republicans are trying to bury any action. They’re trying to bury any action to try to make our schools safer and make our kids safer and they’re doing it at the behest of the gun lobby.”

“Every day we don’t take action we are choosing guns over children,” said Sen. Rosemary Bayer, (D) – Beverly Hills, who represents the district containing Oxford High School. “Enough is enough. No more prayers, no more thoughts, no more inaction.”

Since the start of 2021, 60 gun control bills have been introduced in the Michigan legislature and only five have made it past the introductory stage. Only one has been fully passed by both houses.

Meanwhile, more Americans were killed by guns in 2020 than any other year on record. Since 2017, a study found guns are the leading cause of death for children in the U.S., surpassing car accidents that same year. That same analysis showed that kids are 15 times more likely to die from guns in the U.S. than in the next 31 high-income countries combined.

One thing that did materialize out of Oxford was the legislature’s school safety task force. The group, made up of eight Republicans and four Democrats, is working to identify ways to make schools safer.

Immediately, they requested a risk assessment of every school in Michigan asking some crucial safety questions.

“How’s the interaction with law enforcement? Where are the connecting pieces? Does your camera system work? Do you need something on the windows so they don’t shatter?” said Rep. Meerman. “There’s a lot of things that can be done at the school level.”

Rep. Meerman also noted schools will be able to take advantage of funding for school safety upgrades once the task force reviews the risk assessments.

One thing the group hasn’t been able to agree on, though, is gun control measures. Rep. Meerman says 17 bills are waiting to be introduced by the task force, but none of them roll back access to firearms or place more restrictions on owners or potential buyers. Most have to do with increased mental health resources and additional training for staff.

It hasn’t been good enough for colleagues on the left.

“You want to talk about mental health? There’s a mental health supplemental sitting on the floor of this body right now that has not been taken up still,” said Sen. Curtis Hertel, (D) – East Lansing during Wednesday’ session. “We can pray, but those prayers at some point have to lead to action.”

“While we do nothing, the only thing that’s changing is more flags at half-mast, more kids that are scared to go back to school, and nothing from this legislature except for thoughts and prayers,” said Sen. Iwrin. “It’s embarrassing.”

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