Families of mass shooting victims and survivors call for education on new safe storage laws

Ted Verner, whose daughter Alexandria was killed in the Michigan State University shooting, testifies before the House Education Committee. (Kyle Davidson/Michigan Advance)

By Kyle Kaminski

April 24, 2024

BY KYLE DAVIDSON, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—Parents of victims and survivors of the Oxford High School and Michigan State University shootings on Tuesday drove to Lansing and called in over Zoom, sharing their stories and calling on lawmakers to continue the push to implement and educate residents on safe storage for weapons.

Members of the House Education Committee took testimony on House Bills 5450 and 5451, which would require public schools to distribute information on the best practices for storing firearms, including the requirements of Michigan’s safe storage law and information on where to obtain gun safes and gun locks.

The information would be assembled by the Department of Health and Human Services and distributed annually to students’ parents or guardians. It would also be posted on the Michigan Department of Education’s website in English, Spanish and Arabic.

In the wake of the mass shooting at Michigan State University in 2023, lawmakers passed a number of gun safety reforms including universal background checks, safe storage requirements and policies enabling extreme risk protection orders, also known as “red flag” laws.

State Rep. Sharon MacDonell (D-Troy), one of the sponsors of the “Safe Homes Safe Schools” package, said the bills were designed to complement the safe storage laws signed last year, ensuring parents who own firearms are aware of the best practices for safe firearm storage.

Jennifer and James Crumbley, parents of the Oxford High School shooter, were sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter after juries in separate trials found the actions of both parents helped enable the shooting, including a failure to secure the firearm they purchased for their son. With these recent convictions, parents likely have questions on how to follow the new storage laws, MacDonell said.

Ted Verner, the father of Alexandria Verner who was killed in the Feb. 13, 2023, Michigan State University shooting, came to testify before the committee. As a member of the school board in Clawson, he shared information on the district’s voluntary effort to educate parents on safe storage policies by sending home a pamphlet.

“[The decision] was impactful at the time because it was shortly after my daughter had lost her life and Clawson rallied around my family and tried to educate people,” Verner said.

The policy education sent out to parents wasn’t pro-gun or against guns, Verner said, it was just information for gun owners on how to properly store their firearms.

While he expected the effort would receive push back from gun activists, the decision received little response, Verner said.

“The feedback that we got from parents was, ‘Thank you. Not everyone knows how to properly store a gun,’” Verner said.

While Rep. Greg Markannen (R-Hancock) noted earlier in the committee that guns are sold with locks, Verner said not all parents use them.

“Parents put guns next to their nightstand because they feel they need to be protected. I can appreciate that. We have residents and school of choice kids from all over Oakland County that come to Clawson, so we have a very diverse community. And I’m very sympathetic to that, that not everyone lives in a safe, clean area and you have to protect yourself. But by protecting yourself, you can do it in a safe manner,” Verner said.

Benjamin Arthur, whose daughter, Phoebe, was injured in the Oxford School shooting, said he had friends at work who followed his daughter’s recovery but were unaware of the safe storage policies.

“That’s not right,” Arthur said.

“How does someone who’s following this story not know about the effects of it down the road like things we’ve put in place after these horrible shootings?” Arthur said. “I just feel like it’s pretty simple, if we send out this information with the kids to home, via email or fliers that they pass out, at least the message is getting out.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), unintentional injury is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 17, with firearms as the leading method of injury. Unsecured firearm storage was associated with higher risks of unintentional and intentional injuries and deaths among children and adolescents. In 2021, 4.6 million children in the U.S. lived in households that reported storing guns loaded and unlocked, with approximately 30 million children living in homes with firearms.

The committee did not vote on the two bills.

Prior to hearing testimony on the Safe Homes Safe Schools bills, committee members did vote to advance bills requiring charter schools to identify their authorizing bodies and educational management organizations in promotional materials, signage, on the footer of the charter school’s website and on the enrollment application. They also voted to advance a policy requiring charter schools to post the average salary for new and veteran teachers employed by educational management organizations as well as support staff.

The 13-member committee voted to advance House Bills 52315234 which dealt with the promotional material, website, signage and application requirements. Members voted 8-4 on party lines with Rep. Brad Paquette (R-Niles) absent from the meeting.

While all eight Democrats advanced House Bill 5269 on salary posting requirements, the four Republicans present passed on their vote.

READ MORE: Revamped Michigan school safety bills get first committee hearing

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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