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After Oxford shooting, Slotkin proposes federal penalties for failure to secure guns

Elissa Slotkin talks to voters at a hybrid in-person, online event at the Ingham County fairgrounds. In-person attendance was around 20 people, which was limited to prevent spread of COVID-19, but 88 more people joined online.
Abigail Censky
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, speaks during an event at the Ingham County Fairgrounds in 2020.

The congresswoman representing the district where a 15-year-old shot and killed four other teens at Oxford High School last month is pushing for a federal law requiring adults to secure guns around children.

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, plans to introduce a bill this week setting penalties of up to five years in prison in cases where an adult leaves a gun unsecured and a child uses that gun to cause an injury or commit a crime.

“Think about the parents of the four children who are gone from this earth," Slotkin said. "Think about what that pain is like and to think that it's because a child had easy access to a weapon.”

The proposal doesn't include penalties if a gun is left near children but a child doesn't use the gun, Slotkin said.

"It's not for just the mere fact that you have the weapon in the home with the child unsecured, it's that that child turns around and hurts others," Slotkin said.

Attempts to pass similar gun control bills have failed in the past, but Slotkin says the issue should be bipartisan.

"I just don't know anyone who feels like they have a right to have a weapon, especially a loaded weapon near a child, you know, in a home that has a young tottering child," she said. "It's not about your right to access that weapon. It's about personal responsibility, which is as American as apple pie."

A copy of the bill was not available Wednesday; the House Legislative Council is still ironing out exact language, Slotkin's spokesman said.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have laws imposing criminal penalties on adults who store firearms where children could get them, according to the Giffords Law Center. Similar legislation has stalled at the state level in Michigan.

In an unusual move, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald is charging the parents of the alleged Oxford shooter with involuntary manslaughter after authorities say James and Jennifer Crumbley gave their son a gun.

"She was able to do that because they apparently have a mountain of evidence," Slotkin said. "But other prosecutors are not going to be so lucky. The next time this happens in some other community you might not have that mountain of evidence."

McDonald called Michigan's gun storage laws inadequate in an interview this week with WDET, Detroit's National Public Radio member station.

"There really are no substantial gun laws in Michigan," the prosecutor said on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson. "We do not require people to secure their weapon. We're not talking about law enforcement. We're not talking about hunters. Anybody."

Michigan law doesn't require people to lock their guns, although guns in vehicles must be kept unloaded and inside a case in many instances, such as when the owner doesn't have a concealed pistol license.

Sarah Lehr is a state government reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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