Michigan bishop calls for ‘courage and compassion’ to end gun violence

By ENS Staff
Posted Feb 13, 2024

Michigan Bishop Bonnie Perry calls for action to end gun violence in a Feb. 13, 2024 video statement, the same day three new gun safety laws took effect in the state and one year after a mass shooting killed three students and injured five others at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Photo: Screenshot

[Episcopal News Service] One year after a gunman shot and killed three students and injured five others on Feb. 13 at Michigan State University in East Lansing, three new gun safety laws take effect in the state.

“I am so, so sorry that all of the students at Michigan State University and students elsewhere live with this fear and experienced that trauma,” Michigan Bishop Bonnie Perry said in a video statement. “I offer my prayers and invite you to join with me in offering prayers to our God that we may have the courage and the compassion to use the gifts God has given us to make differences — to change our world.”

One of the new laws includes requiring universal background checks for gun purchases. The same law also requires that guns be locked in storage. Michigan also established a red flag law — also known as an extreme risk law or temporary transfer law — which gives law enforcement agencies the authority to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who “could be dangerous.” Currently, 21 states have implemented some sort of red flag law.

“I ask you to link your prayers with tangible actions, using the gifts God has given us to make changes in our country so that these senseless tragedies may end,” the bishop said in the video statement.

Perry — a member of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a network of more than 100 Episcopal bishops working to curtail gun violence — was instrumental in helping to launch End Gun Violence Michigan, a grassroots group credited with helping the gun safety laws pass. The group is credited with helping two of the anti-gun violence legislation packages pass in Michigan.

One year after a mass shooting killed three students and injured five others at Michigan State University on Feb. 13, 2023, “The Rock,” a boulder on Michigan State’s campus that serves as a community landmark, is painted with a tribute to the deceased: Arielle Anderson, Brian Fraser and Alexandria Verner. Photo: Michigan State University/Facebook

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the gun safety measures into law in response to two mass shootings that have occurred in schools since she became governor in 2019, the one at Michigan State and another in 2021 at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, north of Detroit.

At Oxford High School, a student murdered four students and injured seven other people, including a teacher. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole plus an additional 24 years in December 2023. The shooter’s parents have both been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter and face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. A week ago, a jury found Jennifer Crumbley guilty on all four counts, one for each of the victims. James Crumbley will be tried in March. 

On average, 1,187 Michiganders die annually from gun violence, according to data compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Feb. 13, nationwide 4,778 people have died from gun violence this year, including 44 from mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive, an American nonprofit that catalogs every gun-related death in the United States. A mass shooting is any shooting in which at least four people are shot. Still, most U.S. gun deaths are suicides.

End Gun Violence Michigan’s website includes fact sheets and resources about the state’s new gun safety laws.

Episcopalians can learn more about the church’s gun safety legislation dating to 1976 here.