Around 36% of women and 25.8% of men in Michigan have experienced physical, sexual, or stalking abuse from an intimate partner at some point, according to the non-governmental organization domesticviolence.org. Every year, about 70 people are killed by gunfire in domestic violence incidents in Michigan, according to this same organization. Survivors are fighting to end this reality by honoring the victim’s memory and pushing for legislation changes to make people feel safer in their communities.
Supporters for further restricted access to firearms across Michigan gathered and rallied in a vigil at the Lansing State Capitol Building on Sept. 14, 2023, to remember those affected by domestic violence incidents. During the event, 70 pairs of shoes were placed on the Capitol’s steps to symbolize and honor the victims of domestic or gun-related violence each year. This was one of many initiatives the organization End Gun Violence Michigan, a large catalyst behind the support and attention of the vigil, has planned to bring Michigan communities together for this cause.
A key part of End Gun Violence Michigan’s intentions is to try and disarm all convicted domestic abusers and make domestic violence victims and communities all over Michigan safer. The goal of the Sept. 14 memorial service was to support new legislation that would forbid convicted domestic abusers from buying or carrying guns for eight years in the state.
Similar legislation has been approved in 31 other states, strongly tying into the goals that End Gun Violence Michigan (EGVM) has for people and communities all over Michigan. EGVM reunited people who were affected by domestic violence in Michigan to share their stories as a way to support new legislation. Their testimonials were publicized during press conferences streamed all over Michigan on Monday, Sept. 18, in order to speak further about the vigil.
Participants wanted to bring attention to the changes in legislation they are strongly pushing for, and how they plan to do what they can to help this legislation to get passed as soon as possible and in effect in Michigan. One press conferences took place at St John’s Church in Royal Oak, Michigan, in which End Gun Violence Michigan had people speak about their firsthand experiences with these issues.
Some people involved with this organization have personal experiences regarding domestic violence or gun violence and are looking to spare others from the pain they or someone close to them faced. Kelly Dillaha is the Michigan Program Director for Red, Wine, and Blue, a state organization that educates women about issues in civics, as well as helping provide tools and resources needed to help them contribute to the community. Dillaha’s job has had stories be told regarding domestic violence in people’s communities, including personal issues for both Dillaha and the women she works with.
Dillaha’s experiences with domestic violence run deeper than just this organization though, as she grew up in a household where domestic violence with a firearm took place and her sorority sister, who introduced her and her husband, was murdered by her husband.
Dillaha also mentioned that her children were at Michigan State during the mass shooting back in February 2023. “The tragic reality is that two-thirds of mass shootings are domestic violence related. We know domestic violence escalates when women try to leave,” Dillaha said.
Bishop Bonnie Perry, the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan bishop and President of End Gun Violence Michigan, also had some words for the masses at or listening to the Royal Oak press conference. Bishop Perry introduced her friend and colleague, Bishop Catherine Waynick, who was bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, to share her story.
“Last February, my brother shot and killed his wife of 42 years. There is no way to sugarcoat this. There is no excuse. There is no rational explanation. They were arguing (he claims she wouldn’t stop talking) and she was just hours out of the hospital as they both were sick. So he took the handgun stored in an unlocked picture frame and shot her, but he says he does not remember that part, said Waynick,” said Waynick.
Waynick says her brother was raised in an abusive household, with little to no role modeling done on his own children, having left them and also being a convicted felon for drug offenses before the age of 30. The legislations advocated by End Gun Violence Michigan are the same laws that would have prevented Waynick’s brother from access to a firearm after his conviction.
To know more about the legislation and the following events promoted by End Gun Violence Michigan, access https://www.migunsafety.org/.