Michigan firearm reform group eyes 2024 initiative if laws not changed

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

A group of Michigan advocates seeking to curb gun violence launched an "exploratory committee" Monday to consider a 2024 ballot initiative that would impose firearm restrictions in Michigan.

End Gun Violence Michigan urged the GOP-led Michigan Legislature to pass meaningful gun reform in the coming months or face a possible petition initiative that would go around them. The group launched its efforts on the fourth anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. 

"We can do this; we can pass common sense gun reform that protects our communities and honors responsible gun owners," said Bonnie Perry, bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. 

The groups listed on the steering committee for End Gun Violence Michigan include the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit & Vicinity, March for our Lives - Michigan, Michigan Unites, Oakland Forward and Interfaith Action of Southwest Michigan. 

The group said it will advocate for policies such as safe gun storage laws, universal background checks, red flag laws for domestic violence or high risk cases and bills preventing the carry of guns in the Capitol. Several of those measures have been introduced by Democratic lawmakers during session, but the GOP-led Legislature has largely ignored calls for committee hearings on the issues. 

Short of legislative action, the group will begin evaluating a ballot initiative by holding community listening meetings, researching the most effective gun measures and raising resources. 

Among Monday's speakers at the virtual press conference announcing the effort were several individuals affected by gun violence, including Kiley Myrand, an Oxford High School student who shared her experience from the Nov. 30 shooting.

Myrand said she remembered the relief of hearing back from her younger brother, a freshman at the high school, when she'd texted to see if he was OK and the heartbreak of not hearing back from her friend Tate Myre, one of four individuals to be killed in the shooting. Fellow student Ethan Crumbley faces 24 criminal counts including murder and terrorism in connection with the shooting.  

"No one my age should experience losing a friend, especially losing a friend in this way," Myrand said. "No one my age, younger or older, should experience having lost a loved one this way.”

Sherri Scott's daughter Francesca Marks was shot dead at a Detroit park in August 2019 when a brawl broke out between groups at the park. She left seven children, three of whom will never have any memories of their mother, Scott said. 

"This is a joy taken away from them, something that never should have happened at all," Scott said. 

Firearm bills introduced this session include ones that would prohibit firearms in the state Capitol, require background checks for firearms purchases and mandate the safe storage of firearms. None of those bills have received hearings. 

Democrats are expected to push for a hearing on the safe storage bills in a press conference Tuesday with Attorney General Dana Nessel and Reina St. Juliana, whose sister, Hana St. Juliana, was killed in the Oxford shooting. 

Oxford High School students stand in unity at a memorial at the entrance to Oxford High School on Thursday, December 2, 2021, days after a school shooter with a handgun murdered four fellow students and injured several others and a teacher.

Gun rights groups have criticized Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, for reportedly promising Senate Democrats a Senate committee hearing on red flag legislation this session.

House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, last month launched a bipartisan school safety task force that will focus on ways to improve security and mental health access at schools, but the group is not expected to dive into any sort of gun reform debate. 

“I’m sure it will come up, but just looking at history and knowing where our personal beliefs are, I’m not really optimistic we’ll come up with substantive gun legislation,” Rep. Scott VanSingel, a Grant Republican who is a member of the committee, said last month. “It has to be something that will pass through the Legislature.”