LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The mass shooting at Michigan State University prompted gun control advocates, led by students, to gather on the state Capitol lawn Wednesday.
They hoped to send a message to legislators inside the Capitol to vote in what they consider commonsense gun laws.
Sitting in support of the people at the podium was Lansing resident Alma Garcia. In her hands, she held a picture of her daughter Melissa. It’s a reminder of the day she lost her. On Sept. 16, 2004, a gunman randomly opened fire, killing Melissa as she sat in a car. For Garcia, who lives in Lansing and worked at MSU, Monday’s shooting opened up old wounds.
“What gives anybody a right to go pick up a gun and shoot whoever they want to? Why is it so easy to do that?” Garcia wondered.
“We have lost too much. Its only getting worse. It won’t get better unless we start changing. That starts with you,” MSU student organizer Maya Manuel told the crowd.
The rally and sit-down at the Capitol in Lansing, only a few miles from MSU campus, featured lawmakers, parents and students, including Ashlynne Sutton, who escaped the December 2021 mass shooting at Oxford High School.
“Words cannot describe how tired I am,” Sutton said. “I’m tired of watching the news and seeing yet another tragedy happen. I’m tired of texting my friends and asking if they are safe.”
On Tuesday, the Rock on campus read, “How many more?” Overnight, someone painted a new message calling for students to be allowed to carry guns on campus. on Wednesday morning, more students arrived to paint over that pro-gun message, replacing it with the message, “To those we lost, to those healing” and the victims’ names.
Inside the Capitol, lawmakers honored 911 dispatchers and law enforcement for their quick and massive response to the shooting.
“It is our duty every day and night to serve and protect our communities. We will continue to stand together as one and work to heal together,” MSP Police and Public Safety tweeted.
Just what “commonsense” is when it comes to curbing gun violence depends on perspective. Universal background checks, waiting periods and restrictions on firearms for those deemed at risk for mental health reasons was the approach favored by many in the crowd, which included several Democratic lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks of Grand Rapids and House Speaker Joe Tate of Detroit.
Past Republican-led Legislatures have rejected many of those ideas, instead discussing enhanced mental health treatment and fortifying schools. Speakers at the Wednesday sit-down directed their anger at Republicans, who have held the majority in both chambers for decades.
Democrats who now control the Legislature have indicated they want to move on gun laws. Will Republicans work with them?
“I don’t see it as fixing things,” state Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville, said of more restrictive gun laws. “I think the problem is more nuanced than that. And more mental health-focused than just saying, ‘If we get rid of the guns, we’ll be safe.'”