LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — A student-led sit-in protest was held at the Michigan Capitol Monday, the second since the deadly shooting on Michigan State University’s campus.
Hundreds of people, many wearing MSU hats or shirts, gathered on the Capitol lawn starting around 1 p.m. to listen to speakers. They carried signs that read things like, “Students over guns,” “How many more?” and “How loud do our screams have to be before you listen?”
Earlier in the day and a few blocks from the Capitol, the Michigan State Board of Education president, state Sen. Rosemary Bayer, D-Keego Harbor, and activist groups held a news conference in support of proposed gun law reforms.
Bayer said Democrats intend to pass background checks on all firearm purchases rather than just handguns, safe storage laws and ‘red flag’ laws that would allow police to get court orders to confiscate guns from people deemed an extreme risk to themselves or others. The bills have been introduced and sent to committee.
“This is our job. This is our responsibility. We have to do this. The polls kept saying over and over again Michigan wants this,” Bayer said. “Today, I am relieved to finally be able to say that we are taking action.”
There had previously been talk of comprise with Republicans, who argue that anyone determined to get a gun will figure out how to do so and favor a mental health approach to dealing with mass shootings, but with Democrats now holding the majority majority in both chambers, that may not matter.
“I think it’s a risk for everybody if we don’t get it passed,” Bayer said. “People are getting shot all the time.”
Bayer, who chairs the Senate’s firearm safety and violence prevention caucus, said she believes one of the measures could have prevented the MSU shooting.
“I would think red flag could have a big significance,” Bayer said. “You’ve seen interview with his parents. Yes, there always an opportunity for that.”
The shooter’s father said he had grown increasingly antisocial and unhappy since his mother died in 2020 but also that he doesn’t understand how his son could have done something so terrible. Neighbors told News 8 the gunman was known to fire shots outside his home, but Lansing police said they were never called there.
The two guns found on the shooter after he took his own life were purchased legally but not registered, investigators said. He was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon in 2019 but pleaded down to a lesser charge that did not prohibit him from buying guns.
Present at the news conference were March for Our Lives organizers; former Oxford High School students and an Oxford parent; representatives from AFT Michigan; the Lansing and Michigan State University chapters of the NAACP; the Michigan Parent Alliance for Safe Schools; Black Lives Matter Michigan; One Love Global and No Future without Today.
“I am here today because I am angry. … I am angry that four children died at my high school, including my best friend, and that their lives were not worth enough to you to enact change,” Madeline Johnson, a former Oxford student, said.
She directed her message to lawmakers, saying her Oxford classmates and the MSU students were “failed by the people who were supposed to protect them.”
“We’ve known as a society for a long time now that gun violence is a crisis,” Johnson said. “I think I speak for us all when I say that we are tired. … What more do you want from us? When is it going to be enough?”
She said lawmakers should pass the “commonsense gun legislation” introduced in the state Senate and challenged them to do so despite how it may affect their political careers.
“To all those in office who refuse to support this commonsense gun legislation, the only thing I ask of you is to wake up,” Johnson said. “You are not immune to the effects of gun violence. It’s clear that nobody is. I now know people who have survived two mass shootings. It’s no longer a matter of if when it comes to the effect of gun violence; it’s a matter of when. You’ve ignored us for years and years, but you can’t ignore us any longer. Because at some point, you have to realize that the life of a child is worth more than your spot in office. If you disagree, then you don’t deserve to be in a position of power.”
Johnson said people affected by these shootings are now adults and they will make their voices heard at the ballot.
“I can’t think of a single person that I am friends with in America who has not had gun violence directly affect their life,” said Zoe Haden, MSU student and Oxford graduate whose sister was at the school during the 2021 shooting. “Five years after the shooting in Parkland and a year after Oxford, Michigan, Michigan State University felt the pain that gun violence causes. We need this to change. So many people should not have to face these horrific events.
“You have the power to make a difference,” Haden continued, directing her message to lawmakers. “You have the power to save lives by passing these laws. It is time for change, and we will continue to fight for our lives. We intend to win.”
David Hogg, a survivor of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, who later founded March for Our Lives, was at the news conference and Capitol demonstration, saying young people are tired of the repeated shootings and limited government action.
“What we’re doing right now as a country right now is not working,” Hogg said. “The cycle that were in of endless debate, inaction, is not working. And I know that this is not something that just Democrats are tired of or just Republicans are tired of. Every single student in America is exhausted. Every single parent in our country is exhausted, not just because of the shootings that happened in places like MSU, at Parkland, at Oxford, but by the fact that what happened at MSU, what happened at Parkland, in the form of individual shootings, happen every single day, multiple times a day in our country and it does not get the attention that it deserves.”
Gabrielle Bain, one of the Capitol protest organizers, said students were pushing for gun reform laws, changes to campus safety and hybrid or online options for students this semester.
“I have talked to a lot of students, and the general consensus is that there needs to be a hybrid or online option. Students do not feel comfortable or safe going back to class,” Bain said Monday morning.
MSU’s campus reopened for classes Monday, a week after the shooting that killed Arielle Anderson, Brian Fraser and Alexandria Verner and injured five other students. As of Monday morning, two of the students remained in critical condition. Two were in serious but stable condition (one of them was upgraded from critical condition the previous day) and one was in fair condition.
—News 8’s Joe LaFurgey contributed to this report.