After every gun massacre — following the ritualistic cant of “thoughts-and-prayers” — we hear tough talk from right-wing politicians and “conservative” media oracles.
“We don’t need any new gun laws,” they always say. “Just simply enforce the laws already on the books.”
So when lunatic Anthony McRae murdered three students and maimed five more at Michigan State University in East Lansing on the night before Valentine’s Day, some propagandists blamed a “soft-on-crime” local prosecutor in Ingham County for letting the gunman plead guilty in 2019 to a firearms misdemeanor after first charging him with a felony.
They even suggested he got a break because he was Black. Felony conviction, the malicious spinners argued, might have prevented the killer from obtaining the hand-held murder machine he fired in his campus rampage that ended with his suicide.
This logic ignores the reality that even “conservative” prosecutors routinely cut plea deals for non-violent gun charges. Instead, the gun-defenders used MSU’s massacre to pistol-whip “the woke mob” and to “own the libs” and to avoid any serious talk of gun safety reform.
But let’s take them at their word for the moment. Let’s tentatively agree with what they say they want. Let’s pretend they aren’t being disingenuous when sounding “tough on crime” while protecting the gun industry.
What if Michigan cracked down and strictly enforced the gun laws already on the books? Some things might be quite different.
The Michigan football Wolverines — with their pistol-packing defensive captain — might not have won the Big Ten title last autumn while reaching the national semi-final.
Had Washtenaw County prosecutors demanded swift and harsh justice for senior Mazi Smith when he got popped in Ann Arbor on Oct. 7, he may have been behind bars or tied up in court or at least suspended by his coach, Jim Harbaugh, who kept it hush-hush all season.
Pulled over for speeding, Smith presented no drivers’ license. The story broke when the 337-pound tackle appeared in court on Dec. 1. Later that month, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor instead of the felony first charged.
And what about former Republican State Representative Lee Chatfield, busted in 2018 at the Pellston airport for packing heat in his carry-on?
Chatfield could have been prosecuted and convicted under the gun laws already on the books. Had he done time in the slammer — instead of merely being fined — Chatfield might not have become Speaker of the House.
Had he not become Speaker, he might have avoided the temptations that led to the current investigations of him into allegations of dirty money, sex, and drugs.
Listen to the body-cam recording of the Emmet County deputy who handcuffed Chatfield’s wrists behind his back while Chatfield’s pistol rested on the desk.
The cop told Chatfield it is “probably going to be good news for you” because that county prosecutor most likely won’t prosecute.
“At some of our bigger airports — Grand Rapids, Detroit, Traverse City — you’d be going to jail, no question, even if it’s an accident,” the cop told Chatfield.
Speaking of legislators, Democrats in Lansing control both chambers of the state Legislature as well as the Governor’s office for the first time in four decades. Under Gretchen Whitmer’s leadership, might we soon see some common-sense gun safety laws?
Republicans have blocked such things for years with gerrymandered districts that allowed the voting minority in the Great Lakes State to rule over the majority.
That era peaked during the Time of Trump when right-wing bullies lugged guns into the state capitol not to protect their families and homes but rather to lurk over lawmakers and intimidate them.
At that same time, in the backwoods of the state, armed crackpots plotted to kidnap and kill the governor. With the blood puddles of Oxford high school and MSU still fresh in the public mind, what do Whitmer and her legislators hope to do?
They want, at least, universal criminal background checks for all guns sold. They want to close the loophole that bans criminals from purchasing pistols while allowing them to buy high-powered rifles.
How about a Michigan constitutional amendment against guns, like the one in 2018 that legalized marijuana and the one in 2022 that protected abortion rights?
Good start. Red-flag laws also might help and so might mandatory locked storage and more thorough and lengthy background checks. And how about a Michigan constitutional amendment against guns, like the one in 2018 that legalized marijuana and the one in 2022 that protected abortion rights?
A gun-safety ballot proposal — even if it loses or gets struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court — might again bring out progressive voters who also boost Democratic candidates.
A coordinated multi-tiered approach to the righteous cause of gun safety reform might elevate Whitmer’s growing national profile. And it could change negative national perceptions of Michigan.
In the meantime, by all means, let’s simply enforce all the laws now on the books — and add a few new fees, too. Let’s register every gun and charge owners periodically to renew their licenses, the way we do with both cars and drivers.
Crack down on magazine size; you don’t need 100 shots from an AR-15 to hunt a deer. And add a special surtax for ammunition. Maybe five cents per bullet, or each “round,” as belligerent gunners insist we call their fatal projectiles.
Yes, let’s tax them to death, so to speak. Then send all their bloody, gun-tax money to a dedicated funeral fund so grieving families can bury the bodies of their dead kids.
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