Only two days after a gunman opened fire on a church congregation in Texas, a controversial state-level bill is seeking to allow people to carry weapons in places that previously prohibited it. The shooting in Sutherland Springs led to the deaths of 26 people, including children, but the tragedy in the nation didn't put a pause on a bill that would, if it became law, let people carry concealed weapons in gun-free zones in Michigan. The rationale for the bill, according to its sponsors, is that with guns, people can protect themselves from a similar situation.
Gun violence prevention advocates have strongly criticized the move. As Emily Durbin, a professor of psychology at Michigan State University and leader of the Michigan chapter of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America, told Bustle:
There's no evidence that arming more people and putting more guns in more spaces is associated with a decline in gun deaths or greater protection for people. It's more of an emotionally resonant narrative that's pushed by the gun lobby that appeals to people's sense of the ability to control these things from happening. It's a narrative that they like to sell, which increases their profits.
In Michigan's Republican-controlled Senate, the legislation is being sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof. As a strong proponent of the bill, Meekhof stated that the bill would protect people from violence.
"Anybody who wants to exercise their right to protect themselves and have a firearm should be able to do that where they need to," he said. According to Meekhof, the gruesome Sunday incident in Sutherland Springs, Texas, only legitimized the need for the Michigan Senate Bill 584 to pass.
At this moment, Michigan state law prohibits citizens from carrying concealed weapons in nine places: schools, private and public day-care centers, sports stadiums, bars, places of worship, entertainment venues, medical centers, college campuses, and casinos.
A caveat worth mentioning here is that the time only a weapon can be carried in a place of worship like a church, mosque, or synagogue is when the administration of such a center permits it — but that's about it.
If the bill passes, people would be allowed to carry concealed guns in those once gun-free zones. And if a local in Michigan wants to carry a concealed gun, the bill's criterion makes it easy. Meekhof's piece of legislation allows people who have passed eight hours of training to carry concealed firearms in schools, taverns, and the like.
Opponents of the bill say such a condition is inadequate. "I'm not comfortable with that especially around children and someone else's children," Steven McGhee, the school superintendent for Detroit suburb Harper Woods, told local station WXYZ.
The training portion is major. You have police officers who protect and serve, and they have training on a continuum. Just imagine having a gun in the hands of someone who doesn't have that level of training, and that level of restraint. You could have many more tragic events that could happen within the confines of a school.
The legislative future of the bill seems shaky. In order for the bill to pass, it needs the support of the House as well, as the state's Gov. Rick Snyder. And that's where it gets somewhat uncertain given Snyder's past record — in 2012, Snyder vetoed a similar bill that was proposed right after the Newtown shooting that killed 20 children.
At the time, the governor said:
I believe that it is important that these public institutions have clear legal authority to ban weapons from their premises. Each is entrusted with the care of a vulnerable population and should have the authority to determine whether its mission would be enhanced by the addition of concealed weapons.