April 14, 2021

We Need Responsible Gun Safety, Not Political Pandering

Guest Opinion
April 11, 2020

We need a commonsense approach to gun safety, not useless resolutions and rhetoric.
 
But resolutions and rhetoric are what we got when the Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners passed a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution at its March 4 meeting. Chair Rob Hentschel used his authority to let talk-radio figure Randy Bishop speak at length in its favor. Unfortunately, Mr. Bishop made statements that were misleading and untrue.
 
Mr. Bishop complained about extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs), or red flag laws, which are designed to protect family members from the tragedy of domestic gun violence. He told a story about a Lake Superior State University student who’s been charged with gun-related threats. Bishop said the student was jailed simply for posting a picture of his gun on social media. This isn’t true. LSSU public safety had numerous prior incidents and contacts with the student, and also knew downstate law enforcement had received a tip that the student was a potential school shooter. As a result, a judge found probable cause. These are reasonable precautions to protect the public.  
 
A number of sportsmen commented in support of the resolution. While we disagree with supporting the resolution, we respect their right to express their opinions. To be clear: We support the right to legally hunt using firearms.
 
Two gentlemen wearing “Proud Boys” shirts also made comments. Commissioner Hentschel offered them extra time to explain who they are because a commenter made what Hentschel termed a “disparaging comment.” The comment was a reading from Wikipedia, which states: “Proud Boys is a far-right neo-fascist organization that admits only men as members and promotes political violence.”
 
We don’t judge the two men who commented, but it’s our opinion that the Proud Boys is a fringe group that provides safe cover for individuals who are radical and violent.
 
Throughout Michigan, the sanctuary movement is proposing meaningless resolutions that are of no legal effect but appear to be intended as an attack on any gun regulations. Yet there’s broad bipartisan public support for common sense guns laws like those pending in the Michigan legislature. An August 2019 APM Research Lab survey found that 77 percent of Americans support family initiated ERPOs, and 70 percent support them when initiated by law enforcement. Clear majorities supported ERPOs regardless of political affiliation or gun ownership. In fact, after the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, President Trump called on the states to adopt ERPO laws.
 
Michigan needs reasonable laws to address the epidemic of gun violence that we face in the United States. According to the Giffords Law Center:
·            100 Americans are killed with guns every day.
·            Americans are 25 times more likely to die from gun violence than residents of     peer nations.
·            51 percent of suicides involve a firearm.
·            1,500 children are killed with guns every year.
·            Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser has a firearm.
 
Such laws are clearly constitutional. In the landmark 2008 District of Columbia vs. Heller case, the U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion, written by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, stated that “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
 
Scalia went on to state that assault weapons may also be restricted. Since then, several federal circuit courts, citing Heller, have upheld banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
 
We can debate forever about whether guns kill people or people kill people, but it’s well established that reasonable gun safety laws save lives. For example, a study of the impact of state firearm laws on homicide and suicide deaths in the U.S. found that:
·            Universal background checks were associated with a nearly 15 percent reduction in overall homicide rates.
·            Violent misdemeanor laws were associated with an 18 percent reduction in homicide.
 
According to the Giffords Law Center, extreme risk laws in Connecticut and Indiana have been shown to be extremely effective at preventing firearm suicides:
·            For every 10 to 20 firearm removals under Connecticut’s and Indiana’s  extreme risk laws, approximately one life was saved through an averted suicide.
·            Connecticut’s and Indiana’s extreme risk laws have been shown to reduce firearm suicide rates in these states by 14 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively.
 
So, we must ask why Commissioner Rob Hentschel, who stage-managed the proceedings, wants to associate himself and the Commission with talk-radio figure Randy Bishop and the Proud Boys, and why, despite the clear need for reasonable gun safety laws, three other commissioners — Ron Clous, Brad Jewett and Gordie LaPointe — chose to side with those that want to block gun legislation in Michigan.
 
Reasonable gun laws work, and they don’t threaten gun owners’ rights. While our political views range all across the spectrum — Democrat, Independent and Republican — we’re united in our belief that we can’t afford to let ideology stand in the way of our community’s safety.

Column authors Phil Andrus, Independent; Emmy Lou Cholak, Democrat; Hugh “Dusty” Culton, Democrat; John DeSpelder, Democrat; Meredith Fritz, Democrat; Carl Fry, Independent; Hal Gurian, Republican; and Harold Lassers, Democrat; have very different political views but shared common sense.

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