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Whitmer at Capitol rally promises to sign gun safety bills

Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords watches as Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she will sign gun safety bills once they are sent to her by the Legislature.
Rick Pluta
Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords watches as Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she will sign gun safety bills once they are sent to her by the Legislature.

Former U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer headlined a gun control rally attended by hundreds of people Wednesday in front of the State Capitol.

Giffords heads an eponymous gun safety advocacy organization. She was shot in the head while meeting with constituents in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011. Six people were killed and a dozen others injured in the mass shooting. She spoke about her efforts toward recovery.

“I learned when people care for each other and work together, progress is possible,” she said as the crowd cheered. “I can’t do it alone. Join me. Let’s move ahead together. Amen!”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer told the crowd the mass shootings at Oxford High School and then at Michigan State University were the hardest moments she endured as governor.

“We don’t have to live like this,” she said.

Whitmer said she’s ready to sign a first round of new gun laws that includes universal background checks, safe storage requirements, and red-flag laws that would allow judges to order guns confiscated from people deemed a danger to themselves or others.

“Every person has the right and the freedom – the right of freedom to feel safe in their place of worship, in their place of education, in their neighborhood, in their workplace, in their community,” she said.

The Michigan Legislature’s Democratic leaders promised to get bills to Whitmer’s desk in short order. And Attorney General Dana Nessell said she will defend the laws in court if they are challenged.

“I will do everything in my power to enforce these laws and I will do everything in my power to defend these laws once they’re passed,” she said.

There were also a few dozen gun rights counter-demonstrators shouting into bullhorns or using sirens, noisemakers and airhorns. There were also trucks bearing gun rights messages circling the Capitol.

Marcy Jankovich of Macomb Township is the Michigan director of the DC Project – Women for Gun Rights. She said there are already plenty of gun laws, including the constitutional right in Michigan to keep a gun for self-defense.

“If we don’t enforce the law then there’s no point in harassing lawful citizens like me, a 76-year-old lady, who isn’t much of a match for a six-foot-two guy until I have my firearm, which is my great equalizer,” she said.

The state House has approved bills to require background checks. The Senate has bills waiting on floor votes, which could happen as soon as this week.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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