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Governor Whitmer signs anti-gun-crime directive in Kalamazoo

Leona Larson
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hugs Rick Omilian, whose daughter Maggie Wardle was shot to death by an ex-boyfriend at Kalamazoo College in 1999. Omilian and his wife Martha, advocate for victims and sensible gun laws and were part of a roundtable discussion on gun violence with Whitmer and Kalamazoo County Prosecutor, Jeff Getting.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order Tuesday aimed at reducing gun violence and crime with money from the federal government.

Before signing the order, Governor Whitmer held a roundtable discussion at the Kalamazoo Promise offices in downtown Kalamazoo. Participants included members of law enforcement, the medical community, faith leaders, students, hunters, and people who were personally affected by gun violence.

They all had something to say, including twelve-year-old Enijah Roberson of Kalamazoo. Her father, Elijah Roberson, was killed by gun violence on March 8, 2020.

“We was outside being kids when a man with no heart came and changed my life forever,” Enijah told the governor.

Whitmer listened while taking notes.

“You have different perspectives, you come from different parts of the state, you have different experiences, but your voices are important to me,” she said before signing the executive directive and giving the pen she signed it with to Enijah.

Whitmer’s order concerns the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Passed in June, it sends federal dollars to fight gun crime to the states.

“These resources are going to be coming in as a result of the work they did in Washington, DC and I want to make sure that they are focused on reducing gun violence,” Whitmer said.

Each agency that receives money from the act is required to appoint a coordinator within the next 30 days. The coordinator, or “designee” will oversee the agency’s efforts, facilitate actions between agencies and make sure the money gets spent appropriately. The directive also requires the Michigan State Police to explore ways to improve the process of reporting mental health and criminal records to national databases.

Whitmer said she heard a lot of great ideas at the roundtable and that they will be “infused into the conversation.” She acknowledged making changes to firearm policies would be tough with a GOP-dominated legislature that's so far shown little interest in changing gun laws.

“A lot of politicians don't want to talk about it,” Whitmer said. “They know that it's a divisive political issue. Not talking about it's not an option. We got to keep our community safe, we got to prevent crime, we've got to do everything we can to curtail the gun violence.”

Leona Larson (Gould-McElhone) was a complaint investigator with the Detroit Consumer Affairs Department when she started producing and co-hosting Consumer Conversation with Esther Shapiro for WXYT-Radio in Detroit while freelancing at The Detroit News and other local newspapers. Leona joined WDIV-TV in Detroit as a special project's producer and later, as an investigative producer. Today, she splits her time as a general assignment reporter at WMUK and a part-time journalism instructor for the School of Communications at Western Michigan University.
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