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Congressional Dems in Michigan press for gun bills

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Berkley — One week after Democrats staged a sit-in on the U.S. House floor over gun control, five members of the Michigan Congressional delegation continued to press the issue locally with a call to pass stalled gun legislation.

The effort culminated in an hour-long forum with more than 100 people — mostly women — who jammed into a conference room at the Berkley Police Department to support more gun legislation in the wake of high-profile shootings, including the deaths of 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

The event was hosted by U.S. Reps. John Conyers, D-Detroit, Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, and Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, and featured law enforcement, an imam, a member of Crime Stoppers and several others. While agreeing the Second Amendment right to bear arms was important, common sense gun legislation is paramount to protect lives, they said.

“We need to make sure that everybody gets a background check,” Conyers said. “The other thing that’s important to me is that we need to renew the ban on all assault weapons. As each massacre, as each tragedy occurs, more and more people start saying let’s ban all assault weapons, period.”

Democrats have been pushing for legislation that would prevent people who are listed on the federal no-fly watch lists for potential terrorism from buying guns, but Republicans have been reticent because they say those on no-fly lists have not been arrested or convicted of crimes and many have been mistakenly placed on those lists.

Levin said the “public pressure to get the leadership in the House to bring those two bills” to a vote must continue.

“That’s what are our aim is. We sat down on the floor. We decided the next step was to come home and really stimulate public opinion, which I think is very clear.”

Kildee said he hopes these meeting sparks more public outcry. But he promised Democrats will “use every tactic we can.”

“What we have found is that people across the country, as they understand the question that we’re posing — universal background checks; no fly, no buy — they tend to speak up,” Kildee said. “I really think the next step in some ways may be a step that the leadership in the House Republican conference is going to have to take up. Do they want to simply continue to hear from people that they want to see common sense gun legislation or are they going to continue to push back.”

Not everyone in the crowd was pro gun legislation. A few men shouted at Conyers when he wowed the crowd with pushing for an assault weapons ban.

Zachary Finlay, 23, of Fenton, called the “no fly, no buy” legislation a “knee-jerk reaction” that did not have “any protections for due process for American citizens put on this list.” He also doesn’t want a ban on an assault rifles for law-abiding citizens.

“You could be put on this list; nobody will tell you that you are on this list. You go to get on an airplane, you go to buy a firearm for your family, and you get denied,” said Finlay, who is an active Marine. “If you want to stop terrorists with this list, go ahead. I like that, it’s a good idea. But just inform the American citizens when they get on this list how to get off this list and why they are on this list.”

But Lawrence, who has been in Congress for a year and a half, insisted no one is trying to take citizen’s guns but that reasonable gun laws need to be strengthened to stop attacks like Orlando.

“Enough is enough,” she said. “It’s time for Congress to finally do their job.”

lfleming@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2620

Twitter: @leonardnfleming