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Stateside Podcast: Gun violence and MI law

Police investigate the scene of a shooting at Berkey Hall on the campus of Michigan State University, late Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Al Goldis/AP
FR11125 AP
Police investigate the scene of a shooting at Berkey Hall on the campus of Michigan State University, late Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

In the aftermath of the MSU shooting, people across the state and beyond will continue to wonder what comes next. Although Marc Zimmerman believes that there will most likely be another event like the shooting at Michigan State, he wants people to begin thinking about what can be done before the next tragedy occurs.

We also need to know, well, what are those signs and how do we recognize them? And how do we help people get the help that they need versus just arresting them and putting them in prison?...But we have to start thinking about what we have to do to prevent these kinds of events,” Zimmerman said.

On Monday night, a shooter opened fire on the Michigan State University campus, taking the lives of three students and critically wounding five others before taking his own life. The tragedy rocked the community and the state, leaving people searching for answers after the second high-profile shooting in Michigan in less than two years. In the wake of another traumatic act of violence, many have begun to call on lawmakers to take action.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, the shooting at MSU was the 67th mass shooting event in the United States since the beginning of 2023. Although there is no official definition for a mass shooting event, gun violence researcher Marc Zimmerman said that most mass shootings are defined as having three to four victims. Zimmerman, who co-directs the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention at the University of Michigan, suggests that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to preventing gun violence.

“[A] solution for mass shootings may be quite different than a solution for interpersonal violence in an intimate partner situation or in, let's say, gang or drug related violence, which may be very different than suicides,” Zimmerman said. “So there's not a single solution. There's not a single policy. There's not a single way of how we're going to solve this problem.”

Despite the complex and highly politicized nature of gun policy, the public outcry for gun reform has been loud and strong in the days following the shooting at MSU. In addition to heightened concerns over national gun policy issues, the suspected perpetrator’s arrest record has also caused outrage and confusion since it came to light.

The suspected shooter, 43-year old Anthony McRae of Lansing, had a prior arrest in 2019 for concealed carry of a weapon without a license. In Michigan this charge is a felony with a sentence of up to five years, however McRae’s lawyers were able to plead down to a misdemeanor conviction. According to reporter Craig Mauger of The Detroit News, this was critical to allowing McRae to purchase a firearm after his 18-month probation.

“[H]e would not have been able to still legally purchase or own a gun if he had been convicted of the felony. The misdemeanor charge allowed him – even though it was a gun related crime – it allowed him to go out and purchase a gun and possess a gun as soon as his probation was over,” Mauger said.

After speaking with Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Michigan, Mauger said there is potential for new legislation to come from this. It’s just a matter of getting everyone to agree.

“It could be possible that the Legislature says, well, now the people that have been convicted of this particular list of crimes – maybe crimes involving violence, crimes involving gun violations – this group of people cannot go back and purchase another gun until a couple [of] years after their probation ends. I mean, something like that could be put into state law pretty easily,” Mauger said. “There were Republicans saying yesterday on social media that they would challenge the constitutionality of any measure like that. And that would have to be something that played out in the courts. But the Legislature could definitely at least attempt to do it.”

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Ronia Cabansag is a producer for Stateside. She comes to Michigan Public from Eastern Michigan University, where she earned a BS in Media Studies & Journalism and English Linguistics with a minor in Computer Science.
Anna joined Stateside as an assistant producer in August 2021. She is a recent graduate of Michigan State University's School of Journalism and previously worked for The State News as an intern and student government reporter.