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Thursday, January 13,2011

A cautious approach

State Sen. Rebekah Warren says tighter gun control policies are needed

by Andy Balaskovitz
Thursday, Jan. 13 — State Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, said Wednesday on “City Pulse on the Air” that the state could benefit from less liberal gun control policies in light of the Tucson shooting.

“I take a pretty cautious point of view on anything in this state we would regulate that has potential to cause great harm,” she said, comparing gun control laws with alcohol regulation.

“I think of firearms in the same way. We need a smart policy we can enact that doesn’t have to take away people’s fundamental right to hunt and have self-protection.”

R_Warren.jpgMoments earlier on the show, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, said the gun control discussion shouldn’t be on tighter regulations of firearms, but the mental health system. Psychologically unstable people like the alleged Tucson shooter Jared Loughner shouldn’t fall through the cracks and be able to possess firearms with 30-round clips, Rogers said.

But Warren says those types of guns are unnecessary for civilians in the first place.

“Those types of clips are not something most people need for hunting or target practice,” she said, citing firearm technology that has been developed specifically for killing other human beings.

“I don’t think it’s inconsistent to say you have a right to bear certain types of arms. That doesn’t mean the right to have unfettered access to carry anywhere and have any type of ammunition,” she said.

Warren also disputes Rogers’ claim that it’s a failure of the mental health system.

“It’s a fascinating comment by the congressman,” Warren said. She pointed back to the concealed weapons debate in Michigan in the 1990s, which she called “the liberalization of concealed weapons policy.”

She said the law went from potential gun owners having to prove they didn’t have a history of mental illness or violence to requiring a third party to do so.

“That really flipped it (the law) on its head. From Michigan’s perspective, that was a step backwards,” she said.

Warren conceded that enacting more firearm restrictions could be a tough task in a state with a rich hunting history.

“There are lots of folks here who support the right to hunt,” Warren said. “There is a more protective attitude about guns and a less focus on safety.”

Warren represents the 18th Senate district, covering most of Washtenaw County, where she says the NRA is not as active as elsewhere in the state. She is serving her first term in the Senate after four years in the House.

Even though the Capitol building does not have metal detectors to pick up concealed weapons on visitors, Warren said she’s OK with that and feels safe.

“We (elected officials) need to be connected to our community. I personally have never worried about a more visible sign of security like metal detectors,” she said. “But we certainly do have security.”

Warren also touched on the two men who recently walked through the downtown Capital Area District Library openly carrying firearms. One had a shotgun strapped over his shoulder, the other a handgun at his hip.

Has the open carry law gone too far?

“Personally, I do (think that),” she said. People openly carrying “just raises the opportunity for some situation to go from somebody’s frustrated” to “taking action with a firearm.”

She added that the gun lobby in Michigan is “definitely a loud voice.” This has grown louder with term-limited legislators, who feel they “owe” someone for getting them into office.

“In the 90s, there was much more willingness to just do the right thing,” she said.

Warren concedes that gun control discussions are “still in the formative stages,” as new legislators were just sworn in Wednesday. While the shooting in Tucson “weighs a lot on peoples minds,” there has been no formal policy talk.

She attributes the Tucson shooting to a heightened negative rhetoric in the political arena.

“We have gotten to a place right now in our culture where dialogue in politics is very personal, very negative,” she said. “We all have a job to do to bring back a level of civility in politics that’s been missing for years.”

Warren also spoke on medical marijuana regulation as Ann Arbor, a traditionally liberal city toward marijuana laws, is in her district.

“It’s time for the state to look at that law. There is definitely a lot that could be better defined,” she said.

Dispensaries have popped up in downtown Ann Arbor — not as many as in Lansing — and Warren thinks they should be regulated in some way.

“There are big holes left open to interpretation,” she said. “That being said, we worry that when things get taken up by state legislature it gets worse, not better.”


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