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Time for adults to act and protect children

Houston, we have a problem – in the words of NASA's doomed space flight Apollo 13. Only today, it's America, and the nation's schoolchildren, who have a problem. And it's a monumental one, with catastrophic results.

In recent memory, there have been mass school shootings at Columbine, Newtown, Parkland, and now, sadly, at Oxford High School, among many, many more all over the country. Students practice active shooting drills at school, in preparation for just such a possibility. Since the November 30 event in Oxford, law enforcement and school administrators have been notified of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of copycat threats.

This is no way to educate our students.

But the real threat to our school children remains the availability of unlocked and unprotected guns – and the unlimited amount of capacity semi-automatic firearms can have. We are not in any way talking about restricting the Second Amendment for law-abiding adults.

In the aftermath of the Oxford High shooting, which appears to have occurred because the 15-year-old shooter's parents bought it for him as an early Christmas present, and left it unlocked in a nightstand drawer, easily accessible for him – Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald, state Senator Rosemary Bayer and Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin have all proposed making changes to laws to safely secure a firearm, and to limit “high capacity magazines.”

Bayer (D-Beverly Hills, Bloomfield Township, Oxford, Lake Orion, Pontiac, Franklin) has authored a bill that would restrict high capacity magazines – which is a firearm capable of holding more than a standard number of rounds of ammunition, which Bayer proposed at 10 rounds. Nine other states and Washington D.C. have similar legislation. The Republican-controlled Michigan legislature has consistently resisted imposing new restrictions on firearms, with Senate Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) stating after the Oxford mass shooting, “If we get obsessed with eliminating all risks, we will then develop and evolve into a country we won’t recognize.”

However, the U.S. had federal legislation between 1994 and 2004 which included a ban on high capacity magazines, called the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which prohibited new magazines over 10 rounds. Since the expiration of the ban, there is no nationwide prohibition against the possession of high capacity magazines, which are considered an unregulated firearm accessory. The federal Keep Americans Safe Act, which would restore the ban, passed the House Judiciary Committee in September 2019, as part of a red flag bill, but has not come before the entire House.

In mid-December, Slotkin (D-Rochester, Rochester Hills, Oxford, northern Oakland, part of Livingston and Ingham counties) introduced the Safe Guns, Safe Kids Act in the House of Representatives, a bill to require safe and proper storage of firearms in households to prevent children and others from illegally accessing the weapon.

“I come from a gun-owning family, and I carried two firearms on my three tours in Iraq with the CIA. There are millions of responsible gun owners in Michigan, including my own dad. This bill will require gun owners to store or lock their firearms when children are present, and will hold them accountable when they fail to do so,” Slotkin said in a release of the bill, which would impose a penalty of up to five years of prison time if a child does indeed access the gun, which they reasonably had access to, and uses the gun to injure themselves or others or uses the firearm in the commission of a crime.

County Prosecutor McDonald supports the bills, noting that there are many responsible gun owners in Michigan – but that gun owners aren't required to secure them. If Congress fails to act, then Michigan lawmakers must put something on the books here,

We cannot just prepare our children on how to run from a killer with a gun. We must work to prevent that action from taking place in the first place. It can be done without imposing sacrifices on the rights of law-abiding citizens.

We are the guardians of our youth. It's time we acted as such. 


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