Gun violence prevention rally in Dearborn draws both sides

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Democratic activist Debbie Dingell (right) was among the speakers at the April 20 rally in Dearborn. At left, Congressman John Conyers pledged to continue legislative efforts to enact tougher gun control measures.

Photos by Leslie Herrick

Rally organizers seek ‘common sense gun regulations’

By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

Supporters and opponents of stricter gun laws attended the Gun Violence Prevention Rally in Dearborn last week, a meeting that featured remarks by U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-14th District) and Dearborn Mayor John Reilly Jr.

“We have had several major massacres over the past few years and they increased in number in 2012. We’re holding this rally because it is extremely important that citizens have a means to receive information and learn what they can do to let their voices be heard,” said rally coordinator Sandy North of Organizing for Action’s Gun
Violence Prevention Committee for Southeast Michigan.

Other key figures attending the April 20 rally were U.S Rep. George Darany (D-15th District); political activist Debbie Dingell, wife of U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-12th District); Roxanne McDonald of the Henry Ford Community College Board of Trustees; and Jennifer Edwards, of the Ann Arbor Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

The purpose of this event was to demand common sense gun regulations, including the need for universal background checks, and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Outside, approximately 20 people protested the rally. Among the picketers were Anne Hofmeister, of Michigan Open Carry, and Lavone Olmstead, a member of the National Rifle Association. Several members of the Dearborn Police Department were present for the protest, which was peaceful.

“We heard they were having a protest, wanting more gun control, wanting more restrictions, and we just wanted to let people know that not everyone feels that way,” said Hofmeister, a resident of Lansing. “There are good law-abiding citizens who have firearms and carry them in a safe and responsible manner.”

Added Olmstead, of Livonia: “This is not necessarily a guns issue; this is a safety issue. With gun-free zones, nobody is safe, especially our children. They’re just not protected. Gun-free zones, especially in our schools, just attract criminals as we can see what’s happening in our society right now… I have a child in school and I wish he could be safe there, but I know he’s not.”

The rally occurred on the heels of the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15 and the U.S. Senate’s rejection of a bipartisan plan to expand background checks of potential gun buyers on April 17. Even though this bill had strong public support — especially from the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newton, Conn. on December 14 — the Senate rejected it by a 54-46 margin, which was just six votes shy of the 60 needed to gain Senate approval (Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow voted for this bill). President Barack Obama publicly expressed his anger and frustration in the aftermath of the vote, vowing to continue the fight to pass tighter gun control legislation.

North began the rally with a moment of silence for those killed and wounded in the Boston Marathon and the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas on April 17. She mentioned several of the mass shootings in recent years, including at Virginia Tech in 2007, the Arizona supermarket parking lot in 2011 where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was wounded, the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo. last year, and Sandy Hook Elementary School. She choked up when mentioning Sandy Hook, where 20 children and six adults were murdered, slayings that North called “the one that caused many of us to finally say, ‘Enough is enough.’”

O’Reilly, a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, stated that Dearborn Police confiscated more than 300 guns over the last three years.

“The issue here is balance,” said O’Reilly. “The role of government is to balance competing interests, to find an appropriate point… where we are protecting others while allowing people to maximize their freedom. It’s always a balancing act.”

O’Reilly stated that the measures being proposed — universal background checks, limits on magazine capacity, a ban on assault weapons, tougher penalties for gun trafficking, and increased mental health screenings — does not violate the Second Amendment. He received loud applause several times during his speech.

“It’s impossible to stop people from hurting each other,” he said. “We must take rational, reasonable steps to mitigate — not eliminate — those circumstances… and do it fully within (the parameters of the Constitution).”

Conyers followed O’Reilly and stated the Senate “disappointed us by not passing a very modest gun law.” However, like President Obama, Conyers declared the fight over gun control was far from over and he would continue to push for tougher gun control laws, no matter how long it takes.

Dingell talked about her personal experience with gun violence and how it hit close to home in her family, which had a traumatic impact on herself and her siblings. Her remarks also elicited applause. 

“My father shouldn’t have had access to those guns, and until we deal with mental health and illness, people that shouldn’t have access to guns are going to have them,” she said. “We’ve got to get to the root problem and I’m going to help put a face on it.”

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