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LANSING — Mayor Andy Schor has some ideas for how the statehouse, just across the street from his office, can help his police chief and local prosecutors address the city's gun violence.
However, he admits that some of his 16 proposals, mostly focused on giving more control to municipalities, have the odds stacked against them. And there's no uniform agreement that they're the right tools for law enforcement.
"We don't want to do this and present these ideas when there's an incident," Schor said during a news conference last week. "We want to present these ideas now, to be proactive to get ahead of this to make sure that we can place ideas on the table ... to help keep our citizens and the citizens and other communities safe."
But the reality of gun violence in America in 2023 is that incidents happen every day, even if they're not as high-profile as a mass shooting on Michigan State University's campus or four shootings — including a mass shooting — in a single day in Lansing.
Lansing Police Chief Ellery Sosebee, who sat with Schor during the Nov. 16 news conference, said at the time that his officers had responded to 944 calls for shots fired, 60 nonfatal shootings and seized more than 400 firearms so far this year.
In the days after that news conference, LPD officers responded to about 40 more calls for shots fired, seized more firearms and the city had two fatal shootings that left three people dead. Lansing Police say they've investigated 11 homicides so far this year that involved a firearm.
"I'm very concerned about the impact on the safety of the citizens of Lansing and my officers because these guns are so prevalent in our city, our state and our country, really," Sosebee said, emphasizing the proposals address illegal guns, not lawful gun ownership.
"Any legislation enhances our ability to combat these illegal gun possessions and violence and makes our community safe."
Schor and Sosebee also pointed to work by community violence intervention groups as needed partners for addressing gun violence. Advance Peace, one of those groups, recently announced that it's expanded where it works in the Lansing area.
Impact from proposals remains unclear
Matthew Schneider, a former federal prosecutor who reviewed Schor's proposals, questioned how effective they would be, noting that some, like bans on conversion devices, are already in place.
The proposals call for criminal penalties for "increasing magazine capacity beyond original manufacturer specifications."
Schneider, who currently works at the Detroit law firm Honigman LLC, said that in his more than two decades in law enforcement he's never seen a case where someone altered a magazine to expand its capacity.
Extended magazines can be as cheap as $10, he said.
"I just don't know that this is the solution," he said of the proposals. "... I think it’s admirable to want to try. But what’s the outcome when you get in front of a judge?"
Increased criminal penalties don't have an impact if someone is sentenced to probation, Schneider said, and longer sentences only further mass incarceration, which disproportionally impacts Black residents.
He also said some of Schor's proposals, like municipalities being able ban the sale of firearms or ammunition, would be unlikely to be upheld on constitutional grounds.
Schor's proposal's included items related to ghost guns and conversion devices.
Ghost guns are firearms that can be 3D printed or purchased as kits and built at home. They often don't have a serial number, making them more difficult for law enforcement to track. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a Biden administration rule that requires companies to sell ghost gun parts or kits with serial numbers.
Conversion devices, often referred to as a "switch" or "auto-sear", can similarly be 3D printed or made at home. The small devices make a semi-automatic firearm fully automatic.
As of Nov. 20, federal prosecutors in Michigan had charged 31 people with possessing or making and selling these switches. In one such case, a man had 51 switches that he'd made, according to court records, and also sold about 100 firearms to undercover law enforcement over the course of five months.
Federal prosecutors also charged a Kent County man who, according to the indictment, had "an AR-15 style pistol, a privately made firearm with no labeled manufacturer, model, or serial number, loaded with 18 rounds."
'It's been hard and it will continue to be hard'
The state legislature has shown some willingness to introduce and pass firearm legislation.
On Monday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a package of those bills into law, specifically three bills that bar someone from buying or possessing a firearm or ammunition for eight years following a domestic violence conviction.
Other gun control bills introduced in the past session would designate all state-owned or leased buildings as weapon-free zones, and prohibit firearms with 100 feet of where election workers are counting absentee ballots.
Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou, D-East Lansing said she's "very supportive" of Schor's proposals, which include some areas like ghost guns where work in the statehouse is already being done.
A challenge to passing more legislation is a deadlocked legislature. Democrats had held a a two-seat majority, but earlier this month two of those legislators won mayoral elections in suburban Detroit. Their seats will be filled through special elections.
Tsernoglou said she has not seen any Republican lawmakers who are willing to support gun safety legislation.
“It's hard," she said of passing gun control measures. "It's been hard and it will continue to be hard.”
Schor acknowledged the difficult road ahead in the statehouse and admitted some of his proposals, like more local control, are unlikely to make much ground.
"Regardless, we have to put out our ideas and ask (the Legislature) for the help," he said. "And then it's on them."
Hours after Schor and Sosebee spoke to reporters in downtown Lansing, federal prosecutors say two men broke into a Dunham’s Sports in Benton Harbor. They stole more than 120 handguns.
Police later recovered all but one, according to a news release, but U.S. Attorney Mark Totten called the robbery a "striking example of what is driving this crisis."
Schor's legislative proposals
The Lansing mayor proposed changes to Michigan law to allow local governments to:
Enact criminal penalties for gun owners if that gun is lost or stolen and used in the commission of a crime.
Enact criminal penalties for the production of a ghost gun.
Enact criminal penalties for a privately made gun.
Enact criminal penalties for production of a device that modifies a legal gun into an illegal gun.
Enact criminal penalties for possession of any device that increases magazine capacity beyond original manufacturer specifications.
Prohibit guns from municipal buildings, public transit, parks, and any other publicly accessible facilities or gathering places.
Require safe storage of firearms and enact criminal penalties for firearms not adequality secured.
Prohibit sales of guns or ammunition in their community.
Prohibit carrying of firearms openly or concealed in their community.
Other proposed changes to Michigan law:
Allow for local control regarding guns and ammunition.
Increase penalties for gun crimes.
Increased penalties for failing to keep or secure a firearm from someone prohibited from possession a gun.
Illegal possession or manufacturing of devices which modify a firearm to operate as fully automatic.
Limiting magazine capacity to original manufacturer specifications.
Mandatory Federal Firearms License (FFL) registration with local and state law enforcement. Includes administrative inspection, security standards with a plan review and a requirement to complete and send all handgun registrations to local law enforcement.
Enhanced penalties for failing to register a firearm and for unregistered or unreported stolen firearm recovered in a crime or illegal possession.
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: :Lansing Mayor Andy Schor wants cities to have local control gun laws