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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
George Hunter

Michigan, Detroit officials push for 'all hands on deck' to combat gun violence

DETROIT — A group of elected officials including Michigan's lieutenant governor and the city's top cop held a Wednesday press conference at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters to discuss gun violence and their efforts to address it.

"We have a crisis on our hands and it's important for the public to see all hands on deck," said U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, who touted a bill she co-sponsored last year that would toughen gun background checks.

"We've watched the tears, we've watched the suffering and we are not sitting on the sidelines," said Lawrence, who last year-cosponsored the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 that would, among other things, increase the waiting time for federal firearm purchases from three to 10 days.

There have been at least five children under age 11 fatally shot in Detroit this year, "and that's deeply disturbing," she said. "These are babies; children who give us hope for tomorrow. Many of these are children who fatally shot themselves with unattended firearms left around the house by the people who love them."

Detroit Police Chief James White said there have been 669 nonfatal shootings in Detroit in 2022, a 13% reduction, or 101 fewer shootings, from the same period in 2021.

"That's a win from the standpoint that our processes are working, but how do I look at the 669 people who were injured and say, 'Hey, statistically we're moving in the right direction?' I can't," White said.

"Of that 669, how many of them will victimize other people out of retaliation or trauma?" White said. "This isn't just in Detroit; it's happening across the country."

White said he meets with his executive team each Monday morning to discuss strategy, "and the first question we ask is, could we have made an impact?" he said. "Sadly, there's often not much more we could have done unless we were at the BBQ, or in the living room (when violence sparked). But where we can have the greatest impact is getting illegal guns off the street."

White added that gun violence "infuriates me," and that "we can absolutely have accountability in the policing, but we also need accountability in the judicial process, which means holding people accountable for illegal guns."

Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield, who with Councilman Fred Durhal last week cofounded the council's Gun Violence Task Force, said: "We are losing our young men. This is not an elected official issue. We can't do it by ourselves. Government can't do it by itself, and the police department can't do it by themselves."

Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week launched Operation Safe Neighborhoods, which he said was an initiative that aims to get illegal guns off the street.

Under the program, in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Corrections, "compliance checks" are conducted on parolees and probationers to see if they're using illegal firearms.

"The checks have led to 37 arrests and the confiscation of 25 illegal firearms," Gilchrist said.

"Every person in the state of Michigan deserves to live in a community where they can have the peace of mind that they'll be safe," he said.

Among the solutions proposed by Lawrence was a ban on "assault rifles." When asked for a definition of assault rifles, she said, "the gun used in Las Vegas," a reference to the 2017 massacre at the Mandalay Bay Hotel that left 60 people dead, making it the deadliest mass shooting in United States history.

In that shooting, authorities say the shooter used "bump stocks" on multiple legal semiautomatic rifles that allowed them to be used as automatic rifles, with multiple rounds fired with one trigger pull. Sales of bump stocks were outlawed in 2019.

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