A gun safety bill sponsored by 8th District Democrat Elissa Slotkin passed through the House of Representatives Wednesday, part of a package of bills meant to deal with the crisis of gun deaths and mass shootings.
Slotkin’s Safe Guns, Safe Kids Act requires gun owners to safely store their firearms when kids could reasonably access them. Slotkin introduced the bill in the aftermath of the November 2021 shooting at Oxford High School, which left 4 high school students dead.
It was included in the Protecting Our Kids Act, a package of bills that would raise the purchasing age for semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21; ban the import, sale, manufacture, transfer, and possession of large-capacity ammunition feeding devices and establish new federal crimes for gun trafficking and straw purchases.
The legislation passed 223-to-204 with five Republicans voting for the legislation and two Democrats voting “no.” While it was expected to pass, it faces an uphill fight in the Senate, where 10 Republican votes would be needed to overcome a filibuster.
Speaking on the House floor Wednesday morning, Slotkin noted that the vote was taking place just after the 6 month anniversary of the tragedy in Oxford, and in the aftermath of a number of mass shootings that have caused dozens of deaths across the country in recent weeks, including in New York, Texas and Oklahoma.
“There are few issues that link our urban areas to our suburban areas, to our rural areas, more than gun violence,” said Slotkin. “I also represent the east side of Lansing, Michigan, where just in the past week, we’ve had gun violence between three young people. And in Oxford where six months ago we had the school shooting, the most recent school shooting before Uvalde, Texas.”
Slotkin said she maybe had a different angle on the issue than most advocating for common-sense gun reforms as firearms are part of the culture in Michigan, as well as her childhood.
“I grew up with guns”, she recalled. “I remember very distinctly getting a four-wheeler along with my brother when I was 11. And my dad installing the gun racks when I was 12, so that my brother and I could go out shooting during the day.”
She also spoke about her use of guns in a professional capacity, as a CIA officer trained in the use of a Glock handgun and an M4 semiautomatic for her three tours in Iraq alongside the military.
“And it is because of that background that I fundamentally reject this idea that either you care about gun ownership or you care about school safety, that is a fundamentally false choice in Michigan,” Slotkin stated. “As I said, we have responsible gun owners everywhere. And since the shooting I’ve heard from more of them in the past two weeks than I have in the previous four years, active hunters and sportsmen who are strongly in favor of things like common sense background checks so that mentally ill people don’t get their hands on weapons. And certainly things like safe storage of weapons, so that a child can’t get a hold of a parent’s weapon and used it to kill their peers.”
Slotkin closed by saying she had no illusion on how partisan the fight for the legislation was going to be.
“I know how much the gun lobby has a sway with my peers,” said Slotkin. “And I know that straight up selfish interest in being reelected is guiding my colleagues in this chamber. But I encourage my friends on both sides of the aisle to prioritize public health and public safety over political concerns. We want more brave individuals to cross the aisle and say, ‘I’m going to do something about the thing that is now the number one killer of young people in America.’ It’s gun violence. It’s not car accidents. It’s not drug overdoses and it’s not cancer. It is gun violence. So to my friends who are considering how to vote on some of the provisions today, I encourage you to make a choice. Do you care about dealing with the leading cause of death of young people or not?”
A bipartisan group of senators has been working to find common ground on gun reform legislation, although the discussions have mostly centered on less restrictive gun measures than the House bill, including strengthening background checks, and incentivizing mental health initiatives and compliance with “red flag” laws.
Slotkin’s Safe Guns, Safe Kids Act would require gun owners to safely secure their firearm when a child could reasonably access the firearm, impose a penalty of up to 5 years of prison time if a child does indeed access the gun, which they reasonably had access to, and uses the gun to injure themselves or others or uses the firearm in the commission of a crime.