WEDNESDAY, Nov. 16 — Lansing Mayor Andy Schor and Lansing Police Chief Ellery Sosebee say there’s a limit to how much the city can do to prevent illegal firearms.
For this reason, they’ve asked state legislators for more support. Today, at a news conference they released a list of measures that could be taken to curb a rising trend of lost or stolen guns ending up in the hands of criminals.
“It’s challenging when we don't have all the tools in the toolbox, which is why we are seeking some of these new tools from the state Legislature to allow us to do more,” Schor said.
So far this year, Sosebee said that his department has seized over 400 guns off the streets.
“Our goal here is to eliminate or at least address the issue of those folks that should not be carrying firearms — criminals and felons. How do we find where those are coming from? It's really hard, it's a difficult task. We do have some knowledge of it, we do track that. But it's not really actionable, because it's a broad horizon of where these guns come from,” Sosebee said.
Schor said the list has been submitted to City Council, which will review it and discuss potential resolutions. It’s also been passed along to Rep. Emily Dievendorf, D-Lansing.
“Some proposals are enhanced criminal penalties for careless gun owners and those gun owners that don't take care of their guns — they leave them in the front seat of their car, or on a shelf somewhere, and a youngster gets a hold of them,” Sosebee said.
The suggestions include establishing criminal penalties for gun owners if their guns are lost or stolen and then used in the commission of a crime, and for those who manufacture “ghost guns” — those made by private individuals and which lack identifying information, such as a serial numbers — or develop modifications like glock switches, or bump stocks, “which makes a semi-automatic into a fully automatic weapon,” Sosebee explained.
Schor and Sosebee would also like to see laws prohibiting guns in municipal buildings, on public transit, at parks and other public facilities, increased safe storage laws and promoting greater local control in firearm regulation.
According to the Michigan Legislature Capital Caucus, some firearm legislation has already been introduced at the state level. These include Senate Bills 471, 472 and 528, which collectively prohibit anyone convicted of a misdemeanor that involved domestic violence from generally possessing a firearm or ammunition in Michigan until they’ve served their full sentence, paid all fines and waited an additional eight years.
Others are House Bills 4149 and 4150, which promote weapon-free zones, “including all buildings owned or leased by this state,” and House Bills 4128 and 4129, which prohibit firearms within 100 feet of an absentee ballot counting board while ballots are being counted.
Schor cited another three pieces of legislation that have already been passed at the state level this year, which address laws regarding red flag laws, background checks and domestic violence.
“We're certainly supportive of any of those bills, providing community gun violence prevention funding, which we are using here in Lansing. So, these things that are already out there in the legislature are certainly bills that we'd like to see considered. We'd like to add a few to the list,” Schor said.
The Michigan Legislature Capitol Caucus indicated a few more ideas “also under consideration,” which included an assault weapons ban, raising the legal age for a legal firearm purchase, possession and employment with a firearms dealer.
Although this wish list is primarily geared toward state level government with the intent to strengthen the ability of Lansing and other municipalities to combat these issues from the ground up, Schor said the city is still doing everything it can with the resources it has available.
“We did pass an ordinance several months ago, requiring if someone's firearm was stolen or lost, they have to report it to the police. It's something that they have to do with the State Police. So now they have to report it with LPD as well. So at least we've got a list of those that are reporting them now,” Schor said.
Sosebee said that although violent crime is down “slightly,” the department has a ways to go.
“Like I said, it’s not good enough, because the amount of guns that are out there is just outrageous, still,” Sosebee said. “There's no specific data point of where they're coming from. They come from everywhere. They come unregistered, registered, stolen, it's just a matter of what they’re used for.”
He said enhanced penalties will hopefully provide a powerful deterrent to those who handle their guns irresponsibly.
“Again, this is another effort to educate people and get that piece out there that when you have a gun, you need to make sure that you have the security, know where it's at all times, keep the ammunition away from it so it doesn't fall in the wrong hands,” Sosebee said.
Schor said he hopes to see legislators address as many ideas on the list as possible, but he knows that it would be difficult to see every single one of them turned into actionable policy.
“Regardless, we have to put out our ideas and ask for the help. If we don't ask, then they're not going to know,” he said.
He said the City Council is also working on tackling some of the proposals.
“They have requested this from us, and our police chief has had that conversation with them,” Schor said. “We look forward to whatever comes out of the Public Safety Committee and the City Council in whatever resolution they decide to pursue.”
“I want to add that there's not an incident we’re responding to,” Schor added. “A lot of times people do things on guns when there's an incident that they're responding to. We don't want to present these ideas when there's an incident. We want to present these ideas now.”
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