Brian Gornick, Staff Writer
People embrace in solidarity at The Rock on the campus of Michigan State University. Photo//The Washington Post/Getty Images
On a cold Wednesday morning, hundreds of students and advocates cheered on high-profile Democratic figures such as Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell and Elissa Slotkin, Attorney General Dana Nessel, and House Speaker Joe Tate as they championed recent gun-control legislation in Michigan.
Each person spoke to the crowd on the legislation just a month after the recent shooting at Michigan State University. Whitmer stated during her speech that “Now is the time.”
The rally comes to support gun-control legislation a week after the Michigan House approved a law that expanded criminal background checks and registration for all gun-purchases in a law that right now is only limited to handguns. The Senate also approved legislation that deleted two pages of legislation that protect federally-licensed gun stores from being sued by local governments in Michigan or being held liable for damages by guns they sold legally.
Former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords speaks to protestors in support of gun legislation outside of the Michigan State Capitol Building. Photo//Yue Stella Yu
The rally was supported by Giffords, a foundation that supports gun-control legislation across the United States. Giffords founder Gabby Giffords also spoke to the crowd on Wednesday. Gabby was a former Democratic U.S. Representative from Arizona who in January 2011 was shot by a gunman outside of a grocery store during an event where constituents met with her and other representatives. 19 people were shot, including Giffords, and six people were killed, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl.
“Change doesn’t happen overnight. I can’t do this alone. Join me, let’s move ahead together,” Gifford told the crowd.
Also present at the protest were dozens of counter protestors who opposed the reforms. Many held signs reading “I Plead The Second,” while some played police sirens through megaphones in attempts to drown out the speakers.
In an interview with Bridge Michigan, 66-year-old counter protester Peter Langlois spoke on the reforms, calling them part of a Democratic plot to “incrementally take our guns away.”
Others such as Madeleine Johnson, a survivor of the Oxford High School shooting, claimed that those opposing gun legislation are partly responsible for the deaths of those killed in the shootings.
“I want you to know that your ignorance has failed them and your selfishness has cost them their lives,” she told Bridge Michigan.
Whether or not gun legislation would have prevented shootings such as the Michigan State shooting last month is largely unclear. Anthony McRae legally purchased two 9mm handguns but they were not registered, and he was largely estranged from his family who couldn’t have known he was plotting such an action.
As legislators plan to meet in the upcoming weeks to debate the proposed legislation, the gun-control debate is not going away anytime soon.