Bills will ramp up school safety, keep weapons out of wrong hands

LANSING, Mich. — State Senators Jim Ananich (D-Flint), David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights) and Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-Lansing) today introduced bills designed to increase school safety and reduce gun violence. The legislation comes on the heels of the recent Parkland school shooting that took the lives of 17 students and teachers, rattled the nation and subsequently launched the #NeverAgain movement.

“We can’t stand by while students continue to go to school in fear of not making it home at the end of the day,” said Sen. Knezek, who has received requests from students in his district to speak about gun violence prevention. “The young people of our state have demanded that we take action. It’s up to us do everything in our power to keep them safe by keeping guns out of the wrong hands.”

The six-bill package aims to reduce gun violence, particularly in schools, and includes:
– Senate Bill 933 (Ananich) would mandate a $100 million supplemental from the Budget Stabilization Fund, from which $50 million would be directed to hiring more school counselors, social workers and resource officers, with the other $50 million for school security enhancement grants;
– Senate Bill 934 (Hertel) would expand universal criminal background checks to cover all firearm sales, including long guns, and would close the private sale loophole;
– Senate Bill 935 (Hertel) would prevent concealed weapon permit holders to carry on school property, with certain exemptions;
– Senate Bill 936 (Ananich) would establish sentencing guidelines for background check changes;
– Senate Bill 937 (Knezek), more commonly known as “Red Flag” legislation, would create the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act and authorize courts to order the seizure of firearms if there’s reasonable cause that the person poses a significant risk of injury to themself or others; and,
– Senate Bill 938 (Knezek) would amend the Firearm Act to include Red Flag provisions.

“As a former high school teacher, I know that resources are spread pretty thin nowadays,” Sen. Ananich said. “That’s why we’re advocating to give schools real resources for security enhancements and hiring additional staff. By lowering the ratio of school counselors, social workers and resource officers to students, we can increase the chance of addressing troubling behavior before it gets to the point of violence.”

More than 75,000 Americans are injured by gun violence annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and in Michigan, 1,230 deaths were caused by firearms in 2016, surpassing the number of deaths caused by car accidents. The sponsors of the bills expect that by enacting widely supported measures like red flag legislation and universal background checks, the number of unnecessary and preventable deaths will decrease.

“Criminal background checks help us weed out bad actors and prevent them from purchasing firearms, but loopholes allow some to slip through,” Sen. Hertel said. “When we know that 97 percent of Americans support universal background checks, there’s no good reason to not do it. This is a commonsense change because the rules for buying a gun should be fair across the board.”

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