The Rapidian

Time to reduce gun violence: an open letter to Senator Dave Hildenbrand

Hildenbrand, who represents most of the City of Grand Rapids, has publicly stated that he's with the majority of Michiganders who want to reduce unchecked gun sales. There is a measure he can support right now.

ACTION ITEM: Call or email State Senator Hildenbrand TODAY.

Ask Sen. Hildenbrand to align his actions with his rhetoric and pass background checks for all gun sales.

Or call: (517) 373-1801 or (866) 305-2129

Lansing, April 2013

Lansing, April 2013 /Kathleen Ley

It’s time for state Senator Dave Hildenbrand (MI-29) to step up and join reasonable efforts to reduce gun violence in Michigan – to save lives, to stand with a majority of voters, and to act consistently with his own public comments.

Gun deaths now outnumber auto fatalities in Michigan. The Second Amendment allows reasonable laws to reduce those gun deaths: “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. [It is] not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose,” according to the conservative U.S. Supreme Court in a 2008 decision. 

An overwhelming majority of Michiganders agrees that not anyone, anywhere, should be able to get or carry any weapon for any purpose. Public support for background checks is illustrative. Right now, about 40% of gun purchases- mostly, those that take place at gun shows and over the internet-occur with no background check on the buyer. This gives criminals, domestic abusers and those with severe mental illness too much access to guns. As of June 2013, when asked if they support a background check for every gun sale, the vast majority- 71% of Americans, including a majority of Republicans- answered, “Yes.” Here in Michigan, a February 2013 poll found that a super majority of Michiganders favor a law that would require a background check before anyone could buy a gun at a gun show, including 84% of gun owners, 77% of tea party supporters and 68% of National Rifle Association members.

Michigan House Bill 4774 will do much to keep weapons out of the hands of people who should not have them. The bill applies current state licensure requirements for pistols to all firearms purchases. This means that local police or sheriff’s departments that already issue gun licenses will treat all firearm purchases like they do pistol purchases: by checking the state law enforcement information network to make sure the applicant is a U.S. citizen and does not have a criminal background or severe mental illness. Excluded from these requirements are all four branches of the military; the national guard, reserves, police and correctional agencies; individuals who are already licensed in Michigan or another state; are or buy from a federally-licensed firearm dealer; buy antique weapons or inherit a firearm from a family member. 

House Bill 4774 presents Senator Hildenbrand with a golden opportunity to put genuine action behind his past lip service to reducing gun fatalities. He has insisted he’s with the majority of Michiganders who know our families and communities will be safer if we reduce unchecked gun sales. In March 2013 Sen. Hildenbrand said he has no problem with people carrying guns “[a]s long as they’re law-abiding citizens and we make sure our laws are strengthened to keep people with mental illness from bearing weapons.” He also said that gun laws should “keep weapons out of the hands of people who are unstable. That’s an area where I think we have to focus.”

But talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words. It’s not enough to simply say you are with the majority. It’s now time for Senator Hildenbrand to support and pass sensible legislation like H4774 to protect our families. He should use his position to bring about meaningful reform by urging a hearing on and passage of H4774, or by introducing the same measure in the state senate.

We hope Senator Hildenbrand will stand with the majority of individuals who want reasonable gun safety, instead of corporations whose billion–dollar profits depend upon selling deadly weapons to those who shouldn’t have them. Supporting measures like H4774 is completely consistent with the Second Amendment and in no way interferes with the rights of law-abiding citizens. It will also align with Sen. Hildenbrand’s own rhetoric and the wishes of his constituents. And it will save lives, too.


Kathleen Ley-Bruinsma and Charlie Ransford are members of the Safe Places Alliance in Grand Rapids. The Safe Places Alliance is a grassroots coalition of individuals committed to reducing gun violence in our communities and public spaces.

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