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Dems Renew Push for Gun-Control Bills  12/02 06:19

   

   LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Democrats vowed Wednesday to push new gun-control 
legislation and to try to revive stalled bills in Michigan's Republican-led 
Legislature following a mass shooting that left four high school students dead 
and others with serious injuries.

   But GOP leaders, who have long opposed such measures and have favored looser 
restrictions, did not immediately commit to policy changes.

   "We can't do nothing," Sen. Rosemary Bayer, a Democrat whose district 
includes Oxford High School, told reporters after senators held a moment of 
silence for the dead. "We have to take action. Right this minute, today, I 
think I really, really want to focus on the families and ... just trying to 
help them know that we're here for them, that we're supporting them in any way 
we can."

   Earlier this year, mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado reignited calls 
from gun-control advocates for tighter restrictions on buying firearms and 
ammunition. But with Democrats in control of the federal government, gun-rights 
advocates have been persuading Republican-run legislatures to go the other way, 
and make it easier to obtain and carry guns.

   Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who opposes relaxing restrictions, said 
gun violence is a public health crisis. She called for unspecified "actions" 
beyond "thoughts and prayers" but did not elaborate. She has previously backed 
a measure that would let judges order the seizure of firearms from people who 
pose a significant risk to themselves or others.

   In June, Bayer introduced legislation aimed at holding accountable adults 
who fail to secure their firearms. The 15-year-old charged in Tuesday's 
slayings, Ethan Crumbley, illegally had a handgun that his father had bought 
four days earlier, authorities said.

   The bill would require adults to keep a firearm in a securely locked 
container if they know it is accessible to minors. If a minor obtained the gun 
and used it to kill or injure, the adult would face up to five years in prison. 
There would be exceptions if minors have permission for activities like target 
practice and hunting.

   Republicans have not held a hearing on the measure or other gun-control 
legislation.

   "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," 
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said. "It's a balance. It's a very narrow 
road. It is hard. These kind of events keep those thoughts in mind."

   He suggested there probably had been warning signs about the shooter, and he 
questioned how the teen accessed the gun.

   "Those kinds of things are already controllable but for maybe just missing 
the signs," Shirkey said.

   But Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald, a Democrat whose office 
charged Crumbley, called for policy changes without specifying further.

   "If the incident yesterday with four children being murdered and multiple 
kids being injured is not enough to revisit our gun laws, I don't know what is. 
... We need to make sure and want to know that when we send our kids to school, 
they're safe. Responsible gun ownership is imperative. It's critical."

   Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, a Republican former legislator whose 
office is investigating the shooting, said gun laws are not being utilized and 
violators are being allowed to take plea deals.

   "I believe the surest way to get a handle on holding people accountable when 
they're doing things illegally with a gun is to punish them. That's not 
happening in many communities across America today," he said.

   Democratic-sponsored legislation introduced this session or in past years 
would, among other things, exempt firearm safety devices from the state's sales 
tax and expand universal background checks to all gun sales.

   Republican-backed bills would remove the general requirement to obtain a 
license to carry a concealed pistol. Rep. Steve Carra, a Three Rivers 
Republican running for Congress, said he was drafting legislation to let 
teachers and school staff store their personal weapons in lockboxes in case of 
an attack.

   One area where lawmakers have found common ground in the past is security 
funding.

   Michigan awarded $50 million in safety grants to schools in 2018 and 2019 
following the mass shooting at a Florida high school that claimed 17 lives. 
Legislators and Whitmer canceled $10 million in funding planned for 2020 due to 
economic declines during the coronavirus pandemic, did not provide funds in 
2021 and authorized $10 million for school-safety grants in 2022.

   A spending proposal advancing in the House includes $10 million to help 
schools cover the cost of school-based law enforcement officers.

 
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