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‘We cannot keep living like this:’ Dems vow gun reform after MSU shooting

capitol dome
Legislative Democrats on Tuesday vowed to act on gun reforms after a Monday shooting at Michigan State University. (Lester Graham /
  • Lawmakers are trying to ‘move faster’ on gun safety measures following MSU shooting
  • Legislative committees were canceled and no votes were taken Tuesday
  • Gov. Whitmer and Democratic-majority Legislature have called gun reform a top priority

After a Michigan State University shooting that left three dead and five wounded, Democratic officials who have long pushed for state-level gun reforms said Tuesday the time has come. 

Sen. Rosemary Bayer, a Keego Harbor Democrat whose district covered Oxford High School, where a shooter killed four students in November 2021, said her feelings are mixed now that a Democratic-majority Legislature is poised to enact stricter gun safety laws. .

“In all the years I’ve tried to push this stuff forward, we couldn’t get anywhere,” she told Bridge Michigan on Tuesday. “Now we can, and we are, and all I can feel is this huge sense of guilt that we haven’t fixed this yet. That we’re letting down the people of this state, the kids of the state.” 


Calls for stricter gun regulations in Michigan intensified in the more than 14 months since the Oxford High School shooting, but little action has been taken amid political disagreements and ongoing Republican reluctance to support many gun control proposals. 

Legislative Democrats and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are pushing for universal background checks, safe storage laws and “red flag” laws allowing a person’s gun to be taken away temporarily if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others as a top priority now that they control the legislative majority. 

Bayer said Tuesday she and others have worked in recent weeks to update previous iterations of the bills prior to introducing them for consideration this session. 

“Some are done and some are not, so we're going to try to see how…to move faster,” she said. 

Both the House and Senate canceled committee hearings Tuesday in the wake of the shootings and will not take attendance or hold votes in either chamber. Flags at the Michigan Capitol building were ordered lowered Tuesday morning to honor the victims. A Senate press conference on the shooting is scheduled for noon Tuesday. 

The Michigan State University shooting hit close to home for public officials across the state — several have children currently enrolled at the university, and many more call the school their alma mater. 

Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, said Monday evening she was relieved her daughter, an MSU student, was answering her texts and calls as she followed updates from campus. 

“My heart is breaking for the parents whose children have been injured or killed,” she wrote on social media. 

House Speaker Joe Tate, a Michigan State University alumnus, said his initial dread upon hearing the news of a gunman on campus was quickly replaced by anger that gun violence has shattered the safety and security of the university. 

“We have a choice. We can continue to debate the reasons behind gun violence in America or we can act,” he said in a statement. “I have no understanding left for those in a position to effect change who are unwilling to act.”

President Joe Biden issued a statement noting that the shooting occurred on the eve of the five-year anniversary of the Stoneman-Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17.  

He said the shootings should “cause every American to exclaim ‘enough’ and demand that Congress take action” and pass “commonsense gun reforms” such as universal background checks, safe storage and more.

“Action is what we owe to those grieving today in Michigan and across America,” Biden wrote.

Legislative Republicans expressed gratitude for local law enforcement and sorrow for Spartans impacted by the shooting but, unlike several Democrats, did not explicitly comment on efforts to change gun regulations in the state. 

“My heart goes out to those so horribly affected by this tragedy — parents and friends mourning loved ones, injured victims undergoing treatment, and the many others shaken by this violent attack,” House Republican Leader Matt Hall, R-Richland Township, said in a statement. “Our entire state will continue to come together to support Michigan State and East Lansing and ensure the safety and well-being of students, faculty, staff, and local residents.”

During a Tuesday morning press conference, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called gun violence a “uniquely American problem” that makes children afraid to go to school and makes adults feel unsafe when worshiping publicly or going to the grocery store. 

“We cannot keep living like this,” Whitmer said. “As parents we tell our kids, it’s gonna be okay. We say that all the time. But the truth is, words are not good enough. We must act, and we will.”

Other legislative Democrats didn’t mince words. Rep. Ranjeev Puri, D-Canton, and Rep. Kelly Breen, D-Novi, shared the message, “F**k your thoughts and prayers,” noting policy and change needed to be the focus.

But gun rights groups urged lawmakers to avoid strict gun safety measures as a response to the MSU shootings. 

“Handgun registration laws and ‘gun-free’ zones didn’t stop this evil madman, and they won’t stop another one in the future,” said Brenden Boudreau, executive director for Great Lakes Gun Rights. “More gun control in Michigan will leave law-abiding citizens helpless when they need to defend themselves and others.” 

Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, said it’s his hope “that we can come together to find and develop solutions to keep our loved ones safe.”

My heart breaks for the victims and their families, and I pray they find comfort in the loving embrace of their family and friends,” he continued. 

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