Whitmer Takes Action: Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Formed After Rochester Hills Shooting

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order on Thursday establishing the Michigan Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. This initiative aims to reduce firearm-related violence by providing policy recommendations.

The task force’s creation follows a recent incident on June 15, when a gunman opened fire at a Rochester Hills splash park, injuring nine people, including two children.

According to the source, this move also comes on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Rahimi, which upheld a law banning domestic violence abusers from possessing firearms.

In a press release, Whitmer emphasized that the task force will complement existing gun violence prevention measures her administration and state lawmakers have already put into place.

“Let’s build on the work we did last year enacting commonsense gun violence prevention laws—background checks, safe storage, extreme risk protection orders, stronger penalties for domestic abusers, and greater investments in mental health and local law enforcement—to keep families safe,” Whitmer wrote.

The task force will operate under the State of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Members will include state officials such as the state’s chief medical executive, the directors of the Michigan State Police, the Department of Civil Rights, the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, and the state superintendent.

Additionally, Whitmer will appoint community members like researchers, school administrators, and victims of gun and domestic violence.

Whitmer’s task force is the latest effort to address gun violence in Michigan. Last year, state lawmakers passed measures requiring comprehensive background checks for all gun sales, set gun storage mandates, and enacted an extreme risk protection, or “red flag” law.

This law allows individuals to petition for a firearm to be confiscated if it poses a threat to the owner or others.

Ryan Bates, executive director of End Gun Violence Michigan, told The Michigan Daily that the task force will facilitate strong collaboration across different levels of state government to implement solutions for gun violence.

“It’s something advocates have been calling for, and we’re glad that the administration is taking the ball and is flipping it forward,” Bates said.

“This is important because just because laws are passed in Lansing, that doesn’t mean they’re going to be implemented properly.

This task force is a way of coordinating all of the work across government and civil society to ensure that these new laws are going to live up to their full potential and save as many lives as possible.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that roughly 1,400 Michigan residents died due to firearm-related violence in 2021.

The state has seen a 25% increase in the rate of gun deaths over the past decade, from 2013 to 2022, compared to a 36% rise nationally.

Firearms were used in 81% of homicides in Michigan, where they are also the leading cause of death among children and teenagers.

Zoe Kennedy, public health and safety director at FORCE Detroit, told The Daily that the task force will shift the state’s work around gun violence to allow different communities to be represented in governmental efforts.

“(The task force) will allow communities to be a part of the solution, to actually be partners and to lead solution-based initiatives,” Kennedy said.

“It is going to have a major impact because they will be doing research and having conversations with individuals impacted by violence and communities impacted by violence.”

The executive order specifies that the task force will not only provide recommendations on prevention policies but also assess current laws, collect and analyze data, identify causes, and collaborate with stakeholders to determine the best resources to combat gun violence in the state.

Amber Henson, vice president of Michigan College Democrats, expressed optimism about the task force’s potential impact on students due to their opportunity to participate and contribute recommendations.

“My first reaction was relief,” Henson said. “The purpose of the task force is to examine the roots of gun violence and then suggest preventative measures, and I think that it’s a really big step toward decreasing gun violence in schools and public places.”

Henson also praised Whitmer’s swift creation of the task force, viewing it as a sign of her proactive stance in state politics.

“Gun control in Michigan is a very complicated issue,” Henson said.

“I think (Whitmer) has laid such a strong foundation; her fast action to immediately create a task force shows her action-based approach to Michigan politics, and I think that it’s a defining feature of what we have in Michigan government right now.”

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