Gun safety bills get long-awaited hearings in Michigan as momentum for reform builds

Michigan Democrats busy week keeps getting busier. 

The Senate approved a new tax package Tuesday night. A bill that would repeal the state's 1931-era abortion ban received a hearing Wednesday morning. Around the same time lawmakers also voted on an expansion of civil rights.

And another package of bills that contains gun safety reforms like universal background checks and red flag laws is also on Wednesday's schedule, where it's expected to be heard in front of the Judiciary Committee.

With the Michigan State University mass shooting still on the minds of many in Lansing and the rest of Michigan, it's not just lawmakers who have enacting gun safety measures on their minds.

"For me, I think of the little one last November in Saginaw, the child that found a gun, played with it, and killed herself," said Bishop Bonnie Perry, of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. "I think of the two kids in Detroit who were 5 and 7, where one found a gun, played with it, and a little sister wound up shooting her sibling."

The shooting in Detroit followed a similar formula, where police begged residents to secure their guns.

"How many times are we gonna stand here and have these pleas for people who have guns to properly secure them?" asked Detroit Police Chief James White at the time

MORE: 'We’ve lost too many young lives': Michigan State University shooting increases push for gun law changes

The safe storage bill proposed in the Senate ramps up punishments for those who fail to properly secure their firearms. For Perry, who took over as bishop of Michigan in 2020, the unnecessary deaths from unsecured firearms is among the clearest reasons better laws should be passed.

"I long for a world where our kids are able to play, able to go to school," she said. "Where parents don't have to worry if their kids are safe. That's the world I long for, where kids can play and be kids."

Safe storage laws are among the least divisive issues relating to guns. There's a little less consensus over universal background checks and even more disagreement over red flag laws. 

These barriers, along with concerns over personal freedom, have frequently stood in the way of progress, Michigan Democrats say. Now in control of the legislature, those lawmakers have promised committee hearings for gun reform. 

MORE: March for Our Lives: Groups demand change after Michigan State University mass shooting

Even some Republicans have come out in support of the new bills. Former U.S. Congressmen Fred Upton and Dave Trott released a joint statement this week supporting them.

"As strong supporters of the Second Amendment and proud Republicans, we feel it is our duty to come out in support of this legislation. Students, educators, and parents in Michigan have suffered through multiple mass shootings in the past fifteen months, and Michiganders deserve action."

Both chambers have the legislation scheduled for a hearing this week, which a House Judiciary Committee expected to take it up Wednesday. Also Wednesday afternoon is an End Gun Violence Michigan press conference, which is hosted by faith leaders like Perry, as well as a student of MSU.

"Why I'm grateful is a number of people ran on these issues in the state," she said. "They were elected and now we're able to have hearings. These bills have been introduced for the pat 10 years, and they have never got a hearing,"

Here's what else is happening on a busy day for Lansing: