After Oxford, what’s on our lawmakers’ table?

When in doubt, form a study committee.

That is often the go-to play in the legislative playbook on how to deal with some issues that have captured the public’s attention. So it is with the world after the Oxford school killings, as the Michigan House has formed a bipartisan committee on — what else? — school safety.

If you are bracing yourself for a knock-down, drag-out battle over gun control, you can pretty much forget that.

At least that is the insightful analysis from one of the two Republican co-chairs of the group.

State Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville, a dairy farmer, reports that part of the gun issue will be kicked around, but, since the votes are not there to do anything about it, it’s pretty much null and void.

“What the committee needs to do is get things done that can get done,” he reflects, and, “I think that’s one of the things that would be really hard to get done.”

As he speaks to the legislative Democrats, many think the heart of the school safety issue involves keeping guns out of the schools no matter what.

For example, state Sen. Rosemary Bayer, D-Oakland County, really wants to downsize gun magazines from mega bullets to a handful. That’s so mass shooters have to reload after six rounds or so, and, while the reloading occurs, somebody might be able to stop the shooter in his or her tracks and save some lives in so doing.

Rep. Meerman tells the “Off the Record” panel: “I personally wouldn’t support it.”

Others think banning assault weapons may not solve the problem, but it, too, could save lives, and — you guessed it — on that one, the co-chair says: “I wouldn’t support that, to limit the ability of people to purchase guns.”

So, if all that type of stuff is off the table, what’s on it?

For about a year, Meerman has been working on the mental health aspect of the challenge, noting that the state needs to get more counselors and psychologists into the school setting to nip would-be shooters in the bud, under the heading of an ounce of prevention is one way to save lives, too.

He’ll find support for that on the committee, and he is also upbeat about finding other non-gun-specific plans where agreement can be reached.

“I don’t think one should be discouraged about the notion that, while you can’t do what some people would consider to be big things, there are things that the whole Legislature can get around that the governor can sign that are significant,” he said. “I believe there will be real change.”

On that list could be more so-called SRO’s, or school resource officers, inside the schools. The use of technology to give teachers and administrators a phone app warning there is trouble unfolding. Others have suggested metal detectors already being used in some urban school settings, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer the other day noted you can use dogs that are trained to sniff out gunpowder.

Others have suggested that gun owners should be punished for not locking their weapons in an Al Gore lockbox, but Rep. Meerman believes that is already in place today and is being used against the parents of the young man who allegedly pulled the trigger on his four deceased fellow students in Oxford.

The Legislature tackled that issue years ago, following the Parkland, Florida school shootings, when Gov. Rick Snyder was in office. His panel called for spending funds to “harden the target,” that is, to beef up the spending to make it tougher for any mass shooters to get in the schools.

But during the coronavirus pandemic, the Republican-controlled Legislature let the funding lapse.

To be fair, no one should prejudge what the latest reincarnated study committee will hatch, but, with the gun control issue apparently not in play, there are some folks in this town who will argue you can’t take a stab at reducing the violence without going after the devices that are used to perpetrate it in the first place.


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