Michigan Senate approves gun safety package: Students react

Photo of the Michigan State Capitol

Photo courtesy of David Marvin

Photo of the Michigan State Capitol

Tori Coker, Content Editor

In the wake of Michigan’s first mass shooting of 2023 some 64 miles away on Michigan State University’s campus, the gun safety package recently proposed by state lawmakers and approved by the Michigan Senate on March 16 hits close to home for Oakland University students.

The package — which will now head to the Michigan House of Representatives for further debate — includes three proposed laws:

  1. Stricter background checks and mandatory licenses for gun purchases or inheritances
  2. An extreme risk protection order or “red flag law” to allow requests for the removal of guns from people acquaintances perceive as a threat to themselves or others
  3. A safe storage law mandating gun owners keep firearms unloaded or locked away if they know a minor is present

“I think stricter background checks, red flag laws and safe storage laws all have the potential to be effective,” OU Student Body President Andrew Romano said. “[…] I am excited that the Michigan Legislature is doing something about this — I think the majority of Michiganders can agree something should be done.”

Results from a recent survey by WDIV Channel 4 News and the Detroit News confirm Romano’s hunch. The poll found 87.8% of Michigan voters support background checks, 74.5% support the passage of red flag laws and 79.8% are in favor of safe storage laws.

Senior biomedical science major Victoria Horn feels optimistic the package could reduce shootings and alleviate the mounting discomfort she has felt as a student in the wake of the MSU tragedy.

“I do think that everyone should have to have a license to own a gun, just like you need a license to drive a car,” Horn said of which measures she approves most. “The red flag law is especially interesting to me, because this will allow outside people to prevent those who are not fit from owning a gun. This has potential to reduce shootings by a lot.”

Sophomore elementary education major Jasity Renner feels less confident in the red flag law.

While the concept behind this decision was smart, this doesn’t get to the issue’s core,” Renner said. “Whenever we see another school shooting on the news, we often hear, ‘they aren’t the type of person who could have done this type of thing,’ or ‘they seemed fine to me.” Unfortunately, knowing what someone is thinking or planning is impossible.”

The WDIV/Detroit News survey found 85.5% of gun owners to support background checks. For senior public relations major Hannah Chretien, whose family has owned firearms her entire life, the package sounds generally favorable — so long as those who do comply with the “proper steps” to carry do, in fact, get to do so.

“If you carry a firearm that is applicable to be able to carry on your hip, you should have the right to do that with the right safety training, background check, license and the proper size firearm,” Chretien said. “The issue isn’t the firearms themselves; rather, it’s that the wrong individuals are obtaining these weapons.

“As new laws are passed, criminals have greater justification to find a different, illegal or unethical means to obtain them,” Chretien said. “The weapons package that was put in place, in my opinion, is crucial — but criminals are the real issue.”

A common sentiment across all five OU students surveyed for this article was frustration toward the infamous relevancy the gun safety debate has in the educational realm. Many students also expressed resentment at the lack of progress made so far with combating gun violence within and beyond schools.

The issue with mass shootings and the lack of gun restrictions predates me,” senior film production major Rebecca Feliciano said. “Since I stepped foot on a university campus, in the back of my mind, I plan my strategy. With every new semester and in every new classroom, I have to determine if this is a place to hide or fight.

“As a student, I should not have to focus on or recommend gun laws and stray from my studies because of constant threats — this is why I vote during every election,” Feliciano said.

“It has been 23 years since our first major school shooting,” Feliciano said. “MSU should not have been the cause for change — Columbine should have been the cause for legislation to implement restrictions like these.”

Several students proposed alternative solutions to address gun violence.

“The reality is, the laws won’t do much to retroactively address all the sales that have happened before enactment,” Romano said. “The state is sitting on a huge budget surplus. Where is the money for universities to establish basic safety and security measures? Where is the money towards mental health services on campuses?

“Right now at OU, students only get four free counseling sessions for the entirety of their time as a student,” Romano said. “It’s great we are having these talks about legislation, but the legislature has waited so long, it is going to take more than a few laws to make communities whole again.”

Renner echoed Romano’s sentiment, advocating for increased accessibility and decreased stigma surrounding mental health resources.

“It is not enough to focus on gun control measures,” Renner said. “[…] We need to address the root cause of violence and prioritize mental health support for those in need.”

With a career in teaching ahead of her, Renner feels a particularly strong connection to the gun control debate.

“As a college student and education major, I not only have to worry about my safety, but I will eventually have to worry about the safety of the children in my classroom,” Renner said. “As an adult, I have been able to educate myself to the best of my abilities, and I will continue to be worried about the effectiveness of these gun control laws.”