FRIDAY, Feb. 17 — As thousands took part in a vigil at Michigan State University to remember the victims of Monday’s mass shooting, the Eaton County Board of Commissioners voted 8-7 along party lines Wednesday against a resolution that called for comprehensive gun legislation in Michigan.
The resolution, introduced by Commissioner Jacob Toomey, of Dimondale, also sought more mental health resources to help reduce gun violence. Following a contentious debate, all eight Republican commissioners voted against the resolution and seven Democrats supported it.
“The Board stands with the students of Michigan State University and the people of the State of Michigan,” the proposed resolution stated, “in demanding effective and comprehensive action on gun safety legislation to protect students, teachers, parents, support staff, and others visiting the schools of Eaton County from gun violence.”
It also called on the state Legislature to “appropriate adequate new funds to increase the numbers of counselors, mental health staff, psychologists, and social workers in our communities to both prevent and respond to gun violence.”
"I am disappointed that the resolution was not supported and adopted, especially in light of everything happening in our communities,” Toomey said Thursday. “We need to have an open and honest conversation about gun violence. This clearly indicates that some are more interested in protecting their political position on guns than protecting the residents of Eaton County from mass violence in our schools and public spaces.”
Just hours after the resolution was rejected, Dimondale residents were told to shelter in place after two gun deaths that police said today were a murder-suicide.
“I was deeply saddened that just last night we were unable to pass my proposed resolution. I was disappointed by those who are complacent ignoring the issues that are happening in our community,” Toomey, a 20-year-old international relations student at Michigan State University, said. “For those who voted against the resolution to grieve with our MSU community, acknowledge gun violence, and ask our legislature for support, I hope the two shelter-in-place orders we experienced today highlight the severity of the issue.”
Republican Commissioner Brian Droscha called the resolution “unconstitutional” and gun control laws the state Legislature is considering “communism.”
“The goal of communism, if you don’t understand history, is to disarm people and take away their freedom of speech,” Droscha said by phone Friday morning.
The resolution makes no reference to any specific policy changes related to guns but calls for increased funding for mental health services.
Droscha said the shooting at MSU could have been prevented had former Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon not struck a plea deal with the alleged MSU shooter, Anthony McRae of Lansing, after he was arrested in 2019 for illegally carrying a concealed weapon, which carries a maximum sentence of five years. He was sentenced to 12 months’ probation on a high misdemeanor charge. The conviction did not prevent him from legally purchasing and owning guns. Authorities said that the two handguns found on him after he killed himself had been purchased legally, although he had not registered them.
“That prosecutor didn’t prosecute him as he should have been,” said Droscha. “Had she done so, that shooting would not have happened. If anyone should be on trial right now, it is the former prosecutor.”
Siemon said Thursday for comment that attempts to paint her as responsible were out of bounds.
“I enacted the policies to which some refer in 2021 and those policies were not in place in 2019,” she wrote. “I doubt they would have changed the outcome but without access to the original file, I have no way of knowing how the 2019 facts may have intersected with the 2021 policies.”
Her policy changes raised the bar for bringing gun charges in cases where individuals were stopped for unrelated reasons, such as traffic violations. Siemon said that arrest statistics showed that far more Black people were being charged in such instances.
She noted the United States continues to have higher gun violence issues than other developed nations — something Toomey’s resolution also noted.
“Taking as many reasonable steps as possible to reduce the flow of guns to people who cannot responsibly handle them,” Siemon closed her email, “is a long-standing value of mine and will continue to be.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following video is an edited version of the Feb. 15 meeting focused solely on the gun violence resolution.
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