Opinion: Michigan must do more to curb gun violence
As Michiganians, we generally want the same things. We work hard for our families, want our kids to go to good schools -- and want to get there on safe roads. At the end of the day, we want our communities to be safe places where our kids can grow up, regardless of where we live in this state.
Senseless gun violence makes that impossible.
There are a lot of responsible gun owners in Michigan. Like many people in our state, I have my CPL and I support the Second Amendment. But supporting the Second Amendment and implementing sensible, life-saving gun laws are not mutually exclusive. Gun violence claims the lives of 1,163 Michiganians every year. That means that someone is killed with a gun in Michigan every eight hours.
Nearly half of Michigan’s intimate partner homicides involve a gun, and half of all suicide deaths in Michigan involve guns. Our kids are growing up practicing active shooter drills in school and nationally, 60% of teens say they are worried about a shooting happening in their school.
We also see an epidemic with veteran suicides: In Michigan, the veteran suicide rate is nearly 70% higher than the suicide rate among non-veteran adults. In 2017, 170 veterans in Michigan died by suicide,109 used a firearm.
Fortunately, there are measures we can -- and must -- take to keep our veterans, kids, and communities safe.
We can start by enacting safe storage laws. Between 70-90% of guns used in youth suicides, unintentional shootings, and school shootings carried out by those under 18 come from their home, or the home of a relative or friend. Right now, Michigan has no child access prevention laws. Enacting laws that require firearms be stored with a locking device can save lives.
In many cases, perpetrators of gun violence display warning signs before violence occurs. The man who gunned down 17 kids in Parkland, Florida, displayed red flags that concerned teachers, law enforcement, friends and family. I introduced a package of bills that would allow family members and/or law enforcement officers to act on red flags by petitioning a court to issue an order to temporarily take possession of firearms from those at extreme risk of harming others or themselves.
We can prevent instances of gun violence if we take proactive steps, pay attention to warning signs, and act to prevent tragedy. It’s not a partisan issue. It’s a public health issue.
State Rep. Robert Wittenberg, D-Huntington Woods, serves Michigan’s 27th House District. He is the founder and chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Caucus.