Professor Marco Díaz-Muñoz spent the past year trying to suppress the images, burned into his memory, of the gunman who entered his classroom at Michigan State University, killing two of his students and leaving others with critical wounds. .
Expect an outpouring of emotions this week on the anniversary of the Feb. 13, 2023, mass shooting, which also claimed the life of a third university union student and terrorized the East Lansing campus for nearly four hours.
“It was the sixth week. It was February. The class was from 7 to 9 in the afternoon. It was cold. And I am going to give exactly the same lecture and lesson,” Díaz-Muñoz told The Associated Press. “So everything I do will remind me of what happened.”
Tuesday’s classes were canceled and a gathering was planned to remember the three students who lost their lives: Brian Fraser, Arielle Anderson and Alexandria Verner.
Tuesday is also when Michigan’s sweeping new gun regulations go into effect, implementing background checks for all gun purchases, safe storage requirements and red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protective orders.
“The tragedy cannot be undone,” said Díaz-Muñoz, who testified in favor of the new laws. “There is nothing that can make up for that. But there is hope to move forward and drive change.”
Anyone who wants to buy a gun in Michigan must now pass a background check, and gun owners must safely store all firearms and ammunition in the presence of minors.
The red flag law allows family members, police, mental health professionals, roommates and former dating partners to ask a judge to remove firearms from people they believe pose an imminent threat to themselves or others. .
The three new laws were part of a sweeping gun safety package that was initially drafted after the 2021 Oxford High School shooting, in which four students were killed and others, including a teacher, were injured.
A Michigan jury last week convicted the shooter’s mother of involuntary manslaughter, making her the first mother in the United States responsible for a child carrying out a mass school shooting. The gun’s accessibility was an issue at trial and investigators say Jennifer and James Crumbley did not properly secure the gun. James Crumbley faces trial on the same charge next month.
Initially stalled in 2021 with the Legislature under Republican control, the gun safety package gained momentum after Democrats secured the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections. The MSU shooting intensified efforts, and Oxford and MSU students demonstrated at the Capitol to demand stricter gun laws.
“Once we got the majority, we knew we were going to be able to pass these laws. So our plan was to prepare it as quickly as possible and try to get the packages passed by the Senate,” said state Sen. Rosemary Bayer, who represented Oxford and has been a prominent gun control advocate.
“Then Michigan State happened, and the governor just looked at us and said, ‘I want to do it right now,’” Bayer said.
Secure storage and background checks were approved two months after the MSU shooting, following weeks of testimony from those affected by the shootings and other acts of gun violence. The red flag law was more controversial and was signed by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer just over a month later.
And in November, Whitmer signed another measure banning people with domestic violence convictions (including misdemeanors) from owning firearms for at least eight years.
Gun control advocates aren’t done yet: MSU students plan to meet with lawmakers and stage a sit-in at the Capitol on Thursday “to demand continued action on gun violence prevention.”
Democrats are on record as willing to go further, with some leaders open to banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. However, they will likely have to wait until after April, as the state House was temporarily deadlocked due to the resignation of two Democratic representatives.
Questions remain about how well the new laws will be implemented. The red flag measure has faced local pushback in a state where the culture of gun ownership runs deep. More than half of the state’s counties have passed resolutions declaring themselves Second Amendment “sanctuaries,” opposing laws they believe infringe on the right to bear arms.
Red flag laws have been touted as the most powerful tools to stop gun violence before it happens, but an Associated Press analysis in 2022 found they are barely used in states where they exist. Firearms have been taken from people 15,049 times since 2020, but that’s fewer than 10 per 100,000 adult residents, which is too rare to affect the death toll, according to the analysis.
“I see it as a beginning,” Díaz-Muñoz said. “The violence and epidemic we are seeing are symptomatic of something else. And until we address that other issue, there is no amount of gun laws that can completely prevent, or more significantly minimize, what is happening.”