In the wake of previous mass shootings that have occurred around the U.S, a Michigan senate committee have approved bills that would allow concealed weapons in gun-free zones, such as a public school or church.
The legislation would allow schools to prohibit students from carrying concealed weapons, along with employees, which may or may not help a life-threatening situation.
The Williamston community is one of many who have not faced the challenge of a mass shooting, but they still stand strong against the proposed statewide bill.
Superintendent of Williamston Schools Adam Spina completely disagrees with the proposed legislation and he said the Ingham County stands firmly in opposition.
“If you are asking the people who do this for a living every day and are here in schools, there is no one of my knowledge who is an advocate,” Spina said.
Spina said even the current law recognizes that firearms in schools don’t correlate and the thought of them being introduced is unimaginable.
“They’ve taken some step towards the right direction, but unfortunately I don’t understand the rationale for wanting to introduce a weapon at all into a school environment,” he said.
Spina said he isn’t convinced at all that this legislation will solve anything.
“Ann Arbor and the Ann Arbor Public Schools challenged the current law in court last year, so I think this is more about a struggle of the rights of gun owners versus the rights of public institution having control of their environment.”
Spina said he doesn’t think a mass shooting would happen in Williamston School’s area nor will the decision impact their system, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t preparing for that type of situation in advance.
“The safety of our staff and our students are first priority,” Spina said. “In fact, this year we will be adding a new part to that plan in March in terms of our response plan.”
Williamston Police Chief Bob Young said their department received one incident where a student threatened to “shoot up” the school, but they were contacted immediately to arrest the student and get them the help that was needed.
“We worked with people and we were able to take action before anything potentially could happen,” Young said. “We are a small community and we are very active.”
Young said their city does not have many violent crimes occurring on a regular basis and in the seven and a half years he has been chief, he’s seen one bank robbery and an assault.
“We have a great relationship with the community and our schools,” Young said. “We are not the enemy to them. They work with us.”
Spina said priorities are just not in order and Michigan’s focus should be on the improvement of student’s learning environments, instead of placing a weapon in safe zones.
Criminal Defense Attorney of Troy, Mich. John Freeman, has practiced for 24 years and he said he is a firm believer that the Second Amendment to bear arms is “alive and well.”
Freeman said most people collect guns much like others collect baseball cards, and that may be found to be true as a 2012 Congressional Research Service report found that approximately 310 million firearms were available to civilians, which surpassed the U.S. population for the first time.
“To prohibit law abiding people who have a concealed pistol license, to prohibit those people from being able to carry in certain places, I think is a mistake,” Freeman said.
Freeman said the constitution guarantees the right to have firearms, whether it’s for hunting or personal defense and in order to infringe those individual rights, there needs to be a certain level of compelling governmental interest.
“For example, with certain classifications with people such as, I’m talking about federal law, someone who has had a prior felony conviction, someone who has a prior conviction for domestic violence, or mental health problems,” Freeman said. “These are all groups of people who the courts have said are not allowed to possess a firearm.”
But according to Freeman, as we’ve seen in the past, someone who has criminal intent will not follow the law.
“For example with the church shooting in Texas, that shooter should’ve never had a gun under federal law,” Freeman said.
The Texas church massacre gunman, Devin Kelley, had a violent past according to his records and it included a court-martial from the Air Force for fracturing his step-son’s skull previous to the shooting.
Freeman said following the law is not a requirement for criminals who want to have firearms, because of that criminals are able to get guns and create an act of violence whether the law says they can or cannot carry a gun inside a school or church.
“What those prohibitions do is, it limits the abilities of the law abiding owner,” he said. “It limits their ability to lawfully carry and therefore renders them defenseless against the criminal with the gun.”
Freeman said he doesn’t believe that having a safe society includes getting rid of firearms. He instead agrees in the expression “an armed society is a polite society.”
“I’m not saying that everyone should have a gun, but if the laws that are in the book are applied … there’s not a need for more laws, it’s the matter of applying the laws that are already there.”
Freeman said the police can’t to do it all nor will they always be able to get there on time and if a criminal is committed to the idea of having a gun, like drugs, they will be able to do so illegally.
This is certainly not the first time this legislation has been pushed forward to Governor Rick Snyder’s office, but the Williamston School District, along with others, are anticipating that this falls through.
Spina said, “I’m personally hoping regardless of what the house is saying, the governor will not let the legislation get past his desk, like he did in 2012.”