Aug 23, 2022 - News

Despite chief's call to action, Detroit can't curb gun access

Illustration of a gun with a "no" symbol for a trigger
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Calls for something to be done about gun violence are emanating in Detroit, which has seen two mass shootings recently.

  • This is on the heels of the July 6 killing of officer Loren Courts, when Detroit Police Department chief James White called the accessibility of assault rifles "ridiculous."

Why it matters: While White wants action, local governments in Michigan can't make regulations to curb ownership, registration, sale, transfer or possession of firearms and ammunition.

  • There are a couple of exceptions, like prohibiting gun possession by the local government's employees.

Zoom out: Michigan is one of 42 states where local governments have limited to no authority to regulate gun access, according to Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

  • This can "thwart local innovation" in gun violence prevention, especially when considering different approaches for urban and rural areas, Giffords argues.

Between the lines: Instead, the city and private groups focus on policing, prevention and intervention with various programs.

By the numbers: Force Detroit says with $15 million per year over the next decade, a public-private collaboration could put a massive dent in gun violence. Groups have been doing this work for years, but often lack adequate funding.

What they're saying: "We know there are myriad solutions to the problem via these community violence intervention projects," Allison Anderman, director of local policy for Giffords, tells Axios. "A well-coordinated, well-funded response works to reduce demand for crime guns and stop these types of shootings. We've seen it happen (in other cities)."

  • Detroit City Council member Fred Durhal is optimistic about the city's Gun Violence Task Force, he tells Axios. Established this year, it's focusing in the beginning on conversations with community stakeholders rather than on the police's perspective.

What's next: Michigan's Republican-controlled legislature has historically rejected measures seen as restricting gun rights, though two Republican representatives recently joined Democrats in a four-bill proposal aimed at promoting safe gun training and storage, Gongwer News Service reports.

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