LANSING, Mich. — A group of about 50 student advocates, many from Oxford High School, spent much of Wednesday meeting with state lawmakers to address possible gun-safety legislation.
The group was calling for more mental health funding for Michigan schools, stricter gun storage laws, and the consideration of what are known as red flag laws.
Eighteen U.S. states have passed red flag laws, which essentially allow a judge to temporarily confiscate a person’s firearm if family or friends can prove that gun owner may cause harm to themselves or others. A 2019 survey jointly conducted by groups APM Research Lab, Guns & America, and Call To Mind showed 77% of Americans support some form of family-initiated, extreme-risk protection orders, or ERPOs.
“These are kids who are coming to their state capitol to ask for us to do more so that they don’t have to worry that they might go to school and get killed,” said Sen. Mallory McMorrow, (D–Royal Oak). “I’m really proud of them and I hope lawmakers are listening.”
“Being able to uplift their voices and have state legislators hear from them directly is so impactful,” said Zoey Rector-Brooks, one of the event organizers, “because you can actually put a face to what actually happened.”
Sen. Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, (R–Clarklake), has already agreed to — but not yet set a date for — a hearing on red flag laws. McMorrow said it could still be a few months before that happens, but noted it was a promising step, as handfuls of gun-legislation packages have failed to get hearings during her time in office.
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“There needs to be a change. It’s been too long,” said Oxford High School sophomore Lilah Haden. “It’s so normal, and it shouldn’t be a normal thing to just go to school and be scared for your life.”
Haden says in the months since four of her classmates were killed inside Oxford High, she and many of her friends have started taking half their classes online; the stress of physically being in the building is too overwhelming some days.
The group, affiliated with the March for Our Lives movement, also called for more funding for mental health in schools. Senator McMorrow said she hoped the Legislature would tap pandemic-surplus dollars to make mental health more accessible in all Michigan schools, not just at Oxford High.
Student organizers also called for better enforcement of safe gun storage. The accused Oxford shooter reportedly got the firearm used in the killings from his parents' sock drawer.
“If we could get responsible gun owners to stand up and say, 'Hey, yeah, this is common sense stuff; let’s just do these things…we want our kids to be safe at school,'” said Sen. Rosemary Bayer, (D–Beverly Hills).
Bayer represents the district containing Oxford High School and lived just down the street from the school for many years.
“We’ve had a lot of visibility, since that shooting, on this issue,” she said. “Other states are doing it.”
“Good legislation doesn’t go through fast,” said Jayanti Gupta, one of the lobby-event organizers. “It’s going to ensure that those guns that the owners hold don’t land in the hands of wrong individuals.”
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