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53 bills in the state Legislature deal with guns. But, what will get done?

Gun laws across the country are under the microscope at state capitols. And Michigan is no exception. But the reality is, we’re not seeing a re-thinking of gun policy. Instead, everyone’s just returned to their corners.

There’s increasing pressure for Lansing to do something following the school shootings in Parkland, Florida.

Democrats want universal background checks, and a “red flag” law. These laws allow police or family members to ask a judge to order guns to be removed from someone deemed a threat to themselves or others. Only five states have this type of law right now.

Governor Rick Snyder says he could get behind that type of legislation. But he’s an outlier in the Republican Party on that measure, and he has no plans to lead on the question. Although Snyder has vetoed legislation to allow concealed weapons in schools.

Nevertheless, Democrats and gun control advocates think the environment’s shifted now in favor of more limits on access to firearms. But that does not appear to the case. Republicans are in control in Lansing, and still more inclined toward laws that would allow guns where they are banned right now.

Republicans, like Representative Jim Runestad, are drafting legislation that would allow teachers who’ve gotten training to have guns in schools. “The typical shooting takes place in three to five minutes. It typically takes police more than five minutes to get there. So, this is an opportunity to have schools react in seconds to have somebody there to protect these students.”

There are 53 active bills dealing with guns and weapons currently sitting in the Legislature. Multiple bills are waiting for a hearing in Runestad’s House Judiciary Committee. But there is little to no consensus on what to do.

More guns versus fewer guns. The stalemate continues. And it will continue unless the Election Day dynamic changes.

Emily Durban, of the group Moms Demand Action Coalition, says there’s movement for change. She appeared this weekend on public television’s Off the Record. “We are firm and persistent and we are telling everyone that we have an enormous body of volunteers who are very passionate on this issue. We are ready to knock on doors to help the candidates who are with us on this issue and vote the ones who aren’t out.”

For the moment however, Republican leaders are betting otherwise. The assumption in Lansing, and it’s fair to say across the nation, is that if anything is going to change on how to address gun violence it will be in the direction of more gun control. So opponents will try to wait out the current controversy.

But the question is: will the pressure from the public grow so great that legislative leaders will have no choice but to do something or appear to do something.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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