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Democrats control Michigan for the first time in 40 years. They want gun control

Austin Hunt holds a sign with current and former Michigan State University students during a rally at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Wed., Feb. 15, 2023, after a gunman opened fire on the Michigan State University campus Monday night.
Paul Sancya
/
AP
Austin Hunt holds a sign with current and former Michigan State University students during a rally at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Wed., Feb. 15, 2023, after a gunman opened fire on the Michigan State University campus Monday night.

After a gunman killed three students and wounded five others on the Michigan State University campus this week, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has called on the state's lawmakers to pass tighter gun control measures.

"As parents, we tell our kids it's going to be okay. We say that all the time," Whitmer said at a press conference Tuesday. "But the truth is, words are not good enough. We must act and we will."

For the first time in 40 years, Democrats are in control of the state's legislature and the office of governor. That has Democrats hopeful of passing tighter gun laws.

The state's Republicans, however, are seeking to reach a consensus on laws focused on mental health services.

The Democrats' proposed measures include universal background checks, so-called red flag laws – court orders requiring police to seize a gun from an individual – and safe storage.

"Whether it's mass shootings, homicides or suicides, we know there is not one bill or one policy that can make all of that go away overnight," said state Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks Tuesday.

"But ... we can act to improve the lives of the people of our state and to prevent more tragedies like this from happening in the future," Brinks added.

The bulk of Michigan's voters have expressed support for tighter gun laws. A statewide poll released in December found that 90% support background checks for those purchasing a gun, and 74% approved of having courts take guns away from those considered dangerous to themselves or others.

Similar measures, including red flags and safe storage laws, have been proposed before in Michigan – including after the mass shooting at Oxford High School in 2021 – but those efforts were unsuccessful under the then-Republican-controlled legislature.

Even though Democrats have control over the state legislature now, securing additional gun laws could still be challenging. Their majorities are just one vote in the House and the Senate.

The state is also home to a thriving gun culture and Michigan's state Constitution includes the right to bear arms. Unlike the United States Constitution, Michigan's also has a self-defense provision.

But state Democrats say their Republican colleagues have had their chance on gun control in the past and they won't let this opportunity go without a fight.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network
Mallika Seshadri