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A coalition is calling on the new state legislature to act on gun violence in its first 100 days

An advocate holds an orange sign with pictures of her friend who was one of six people killed by an Uber driver in Kalamazoo in 2016.  The sign reads "taken from friends and family by gun violence, never forgotten, missed by so many."
Leona Larson
A woman who attended the End Gun Violence Michigan event on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at Kalamazoo First United Methodist Church, holds a poster of her friend who was one of six people killed by an Uber driver in Kalamazoo on Feb. 20, 2016.

End Gun Violence Michigan held events around the state Wednesday, including in Kalamazoo, calling on state lawmakers to enact four laws related to gun safety.

End Gun Violence Michigan wants universal background checks for gun owners; red flag laws, allowing courts to temporarily take weapons away from a person who may hurt themselves or others; rules on how guns must be stored, and a law banning firearm ownership by people convicted of domestic violence.

The group held events in seven Michigan cities Wednesday. Each one had a different focus, but was intended to get lawmakers' attention on these four legislative proposals.

The group’s Kalamazoo event, at the First United Methodist Church downtown, focused on the impact shootings have on public health. Dr. Robert Beck works as a pediatric intensivist, or pediatric critical care physician, at Bronson Children’s Hospital.

“The data shows that children one to 19 years of age are at higher risk of death from gun violence than anything else,” Beck said. “And those who are in close proximity to guns are at even higher risk.”

Reverend Heather McDougall-Walsh is with the Michigan United Methodist Church. At the event in Kalamazoo, she said the first priority is universal background checks on all firearm sales. She also said lawmakers could close a loophole in state law simply by changing the wording from “handgun” to “firearm.”

“When we polled this, it received 90% support polling for this. That is almost unheard of in any kind of legislation,” McDougall-Walsh said.

“Do it,” called out someone from the audience of about forty people. Some people in the audience brought signs in support of new gun legislation.

McDougall-Walsh said that among wealthy nations, the United States accounts for 97% of gun-related child deaths. She said that’s a problem Michigan shouldn’t leave for future generations to fix.

“There is no more clear message that it is our generation’s responsibility, not my daughter's, and the time for change is now.”

End Gun Violence Michigan is a coalition of over 130 faith and secular leaders, along with other organizations from around the state. The group says it wants to pass its proposals within the first 100 days of the 2023 session.

Leona has worked as a journalist for most of her life - in radio, print, television and as journalism instructor. She has a background in consumer news, special projects and investigative reporting.