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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Anna Liz Nichols

Oxford shooting survivors demand action on gun legislation in next 100 days

OXFORD, Mich. — Madeline Johnson is tired of "thoughts and prayers" and wants to see action when it comes to gun control in Michigan.

At a Wednesday news conference and prayer vigil in Oxford as part of seven events held by leaders in the End Gun Violence Michigan coalition across the state, the Oxford High School student recounted the events of Nov. 30, 2021, when her best friend Madisyn Baldwin was fatally shot by a fellow student who used a gun that was purchased by his father in the slaying. Three other students were killed in the shooting: Hana St. Juliana, Tate Myre and Justin Shilling.

Johnson and other Oxford students formed No Future Without Today in the wake of the tragedy. The student-led group focuses on pushing for the passage of state and federal laws that would lead to safer gun storage, universal background checks and an assault weapons ban.

"The youth of America were never meant to attend so many funerals," Johnson said during the event. "I'm here today because I'm tired of people telling me how bad they feel or how sorry they are. I'm tired of thoughts and prayers that are not backed by action."

Johnson was joined by fellow students, teachers and supporters from Oxford who urged Michigan lawmakers Wednesday to pass stalled gun reform legislation. In addition to Oxford, events were also held Wednesday in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Saginaw and Marquette.

Several bills regarding gun safety have died in committees in the Michigan Legislature since the Oxford shooting. But after the November election, Democrats now have full control of the Legislature for the first time in 40 years, renewing hope among advocates that lawmakers will pass gun control legislation.

Johnson and other speakers at the event asked lawmakers to quickly pass background checks for anyone attempting to purchase any firearm in the state, safer gun storage laws and "red flag" laws that would allow courts to temporarily take away firearms from people deemed a danger to themselves or others.

The day after the May 24, 2022, shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers, Republicans in Michigan blocked school safety amendments that would have required both background check and safe storage measures. Republican state Sen. Ken Horn, of Frankenmuth, said at the time that families were grieving, and it was "way too early" to assign bill numbers to their grief.

Lauren Jasinski said nothing could have prepared her as a teacher at Oxford for what happened the day of the shooting. The Michigan Legislature "bury their heads in the sand" and have allowed live-saving bills to languish, Jasinski said.

"The inaction of our Legislature has sent a clear message to students and teachers: 'Gun violence will be an accepted part of the public school experience,' " Jasinski said.

Republican lawmakers have argued that some proposals, such as red flag laws, don't provide adequate due process protections for gun owners and overpromise how many lives are saved since mass shootings have still occurred in states with red flag laws.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made her interest known for "common sense" gun reforms at her Jan. 1 inauguration. After her inauguration speech, she told The Detroit News that she wants to see laws that would require background checks for purchasing guns and requirements for secure storage of firearms.

"Gun violence is the No. 1 killer of kids in America, and only in America, and there are things that we can do to keep our communities safer and our schools safer," Whitmer said.

The clock is ticking, Jasinski said, who alongside other Oxford survivors are demanding action within the first 100 days of the new legislative session.

Oxford survivors are not going anywhere, Johnson said in an interview after the media event. The 18-year-old is now studying political science at college and said she and other survivors will keep telling their stories to put a face to gun violence until change is made.

"I should be spending my teenage years doing something else, doing what I want to do, and instead I feel like I'm having to do the jobs of the adults in charge," Johnson said.

It's difficult to balance school and advocacy, said Oxford High School senior Dylan Morris, who came to the event to speak after taking his final exams.

"Our childhoods were taken away from us the moment the shooter gained access to the unlocked firearm and decided to use it in that hallway," Morris said.

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