PBS's Yang Cheers 'Progress' of Michigan Dems Passing 'Gun Safety'

bradwilmouth | March 18, 2023
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While Congress has been unable to agree on major new federal gun safety legislation, some states are making progress on their own laws. This week, the Democratic-controlled Michigan Senate passed a major gun safety package, sending it to the House, which is also controlled by Democrats, and which is expected to pass it as well. The action was spurred by last month's shooting which killed three students and wounded five others at Michigan State University less than four miles from the Michigan capital.

Lisa Geller is the director of state policy at Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions. Lisa, a lot of these things in this Michigan package are things that gun safety advocates want Congress to do, expanding the types of transactions where a background check is required, red flag laws, requirements to store guns safely? Is this state law going to be as effective as a national law?

LISA GELLER: So, first, thank you for having me. And what we know about how gun policy and gun violence prevention happens is that it's typically at the state level. So, while we did see last summer President Biden signed the historic bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law, most of the action we've seen on gun violence has been at the state level. So, while it would be great to pass federal, you know, universal background checks. It would be great to have a universal safe storage law that will apply to all 50 states, and, of course, the same -- with an extreme risk protection order, it is unfortunately the reality of getting gun policy passed that we do at the state level.

YANG: The Michigan State shooter was able to buy his weapons legally even though he had a history of mental problems. Would the laws that are under consideration (have) prevented that?

GELLER: Extreme risk protection orders are designed to be a preventative measure. So, if an individual is at risk of harm to self or others, an individual in that state -- in Michigan's law -- it could be family, household members, law enforcement and other groups -- could petition a court to make sure that they temporarily don't have access to firearms.

So, while I won't say that any one policy here would have absolutely prevented what we saw at Michigan state and at Oxford High School the year before. We do know that these laws are being used every day to temporarily restrict access to firearms to someone at risk of gun violence.

YANG: And while the law being considered in the legislation now would expand the background checks to include guns shows -- close what's called the "gun show loophole." You've got to your south a state, Indiana, which has much less restrictive gun laws -- as the people in Chicago and Illinois know. So how do you solve that problem -- the sort of checkerboard nature of state laws and the fact that state borders are porous?

GELLER: Well, you're absolutely right. And what I say all the time is: "Your state's gun laws are only as good as your neighboring states' gun laws." So certainly someone, if they were very determined, could perhaps travel to a neighboring state and still possess a gun. And so it's important to put in the protection in state law to prevent that purchase and possession of firearms.

YANG: Are there any other states that are moving forward in this way?


I know, in your role, you've been talking to the lawmakers in Michigan. What have they said about the Michigan State shooting, how it affected them and whether this is the main impetus for what's going on now?













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