On any given day, it is easy to look at the news and see stories about the risks and harms of violence. At this moment in world history, we see in Ukraine the horrific effects of humankind’s development and use of life-destroying, city-devastating weaponry. And, of course, we can see similar events elsewhere in the world, such as in Ethiopia, Yemen, and Syria, but with less news media attention for American audiences. Sadly, we see in the court testimony at the trial for defendants accused of plotting to kidnap Gov. Whitmer that there are those in Michigan who reportedly seek to start a civil war that would bring suffering, devastation, and chaos to American cities. In the Michigan context, how would these individuals pursue their goal? Through the easy civilian access to weapon-of-war rifles that currently exists under American law (Baldas and Lobo, 2022).
Obviously, there are other discouraging incidents that illuminate the risks and harms of violence that occur virtually every week. A young news reporter in Virginia loses her life in a shooting outside a bar when someone was momentarily angered about a spilled drink (Studley, 2022). And, unfortunately, yet another much-admired celebrity modeled disappointingly harmful behavior that served to normalize the use of violence as a first resort when someone feels momentarily insulted or angry (Khomami, 2022).
Against this backdrop of the “bad” in the news, we need to take note of bright spots in the effort to reduce the risks and harms of violence. Look at Washington state and the possibilities presented when a legislature is aligned with the governor in making a commitment to take steps to reduce gun violence.
Last week, Washington’s governor signed into law three new statutes motivated by their government’s shared desire to reduce gun violence:
- New restrictions on carrying guns into school board meetings, local government meetings, and election facilities
- New restrictions on “ghost guns,” untraceable weapons constructed from parts purchased on the internet
- A ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines that can hold more than ten bullets
- Michigan has one of the highest rates of gun homicides for Black people
- Gun suicides are on the rise, particularly among young people and veterans
- Compared with other states, Michigan has higher rates of nonfatal gun injuries
- Alarming numbers of women are killed by intimate partners with guns
- A staggering number of stolen guns are used to commit acts of violence
- Armed extremists pose a threat in Michigan
The election in November 2022 will be especially important for the struggle to reduce gun violence. Because of newly drawn, competitive districts, no one can accurately predict the composition of the new state legislature that will be sworn into office in January 2023. This is a moment of opportunity for Michigan’s voters who are concerned about gun violence. This is a moment to look closely at political candidates and ask tough questions about where they stand on gun policy and the need for action on the problem of gun violence. We should be motivated by the “bad” that we see in the news. We can find hope in the example of “good” where progress is being made. And we can learn from the “useful” in thinking about the actions we urge our public officials to take as gun violence problems continue to pose potential risks for every family in our state.
Albiges, “These 10 New Virginia Gun Laws Go Into Effect Next Week?” The Virginian-Pilot, June 27, 2020 (pilotonline.com)
Baldas and A. Lobo, “Feds’ Star Witness Ty Garbin Testifies Against Cohorts in Whitmer Kidnap Plot Trial,” Detroit Free Press, March 23, 2022 (freep.com)
Khomami, “ ‘Violence Instead of Words’: Will Smith Condemned for Hitting Chris Rock at the Oscars,” The Guardian, March 28, 2022 (theguardian.com)
Studley, “Shooting That Killed 2, Including Reporter and a Former CNN News Assistant, Occurred Over a Spilled Drink, Police Say,” CNN, March 26, 2022 (cnn.com)
Vargas, L. Kaucheck, and A. Jordan. “The Impact of Gun Violence in Michigan,” Center for American Progress, February 10, 2022 ( https://www.americanprogress.org/article/the-impact-of-gun-violence-in-michigan/ )
Christopher E. Smith, J.D., Ph.D.
MCPGV Board President