After a mass shooting on Michigan State University’s campus that left three students dead and another five wounded, Democratic lawmakers set their sights on altering gun ownership practices in Michigan.
The bills, introduced days after the shooting, fall into three categories: Requiring universal background checks for the sale of all firearms; establishing penalties for failing to safely store a gun when around a minor under the age of 18; and creating a process to implement extreme risk protection orders – otherwise known as red flag laws – in the state of Michigan.
These specific laws are frequently touted from anti-gun violence groups as being the start of true reform in curbing firearm-related deaths. But opponents of the bills say that the better solution comes from focusing on mental health supports instead of penalizing all gun owners for the actions of a specific few.
Legislative Republicans have pointed toward work done by the Bipartisan School Safety Task force as being a better solution to curbing firearm violence, especially in Michigan schools. The package, born in the wake of a 2021 shooting at Oxford High School which left four students dead, deals primarily with K-12 school safety while installing more security and mental health coordinators.
But to researchers like Shannon Frattaroli, a professor and course faculty member with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, it’s not a question of which is better – mental health or gun safety supports – but how best to combine the two with preventing community violence.
“Implementation is really a key component to gun policy and the potential to realize an effect,” she said. “It’s critically important to focus on guns … but there’s also a lot of progress to be made on some sort of community violence prevention interventions, thinking about how it is that we can really start to address the root causes of violence.”
That’s especially true of implementing red flag laws, Frattaroli added. As of 2022, 19 states including Florida, Maryland, Colorado, Illinois and Oregon – as well as Washington D.C. – possess a form of risk-based gun removal laws.