‘Don’t say that we can’t do anything. Don’t say that now is not the time.’

GOP-led Senate skips statements for second day amid standoff over gun reform legislation

By: - May 27, 2022 11:04 am

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak), April 20, 2022 | Laina G. Stebbins

For the second straight day, Republicans who control the Michigan Senate blocked Democrats from speaking out on proposed gun reform legislation.

The Senate session was ended Thursday by the GOP majority before statements, the time normally set aside for senators to speak for up to five minutes on any topic of their choice. Some Democratic senators wanted to speak out on the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, this week in which at least 19 elementary students and two adults were killed.

A similar maneuver was done Wednesday, following a chaotic session in which Minority Floor Leader Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) used a procedural move to discharge four safe gun storage bills from committee so the full Senate could vote on them. 

While the procedure is one often used by majority Republicans to fast-track bills, apparently GOP leaders weren’t expecting Democrats to make the motion, allowing Democratic Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist to gavel them through without any Republican objection.

You have been called to this moment to do something.

– Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak)

However, after realizing what had happened, GOP leaders moved to send the bills back to committee. They then ended Wednesday’s session without allowing for senators to make statements, as many Democrats intended to speak about the Texas school shooting. Democratic caucus spokesperson Rosie Jones told the Michigan Advance that statement time was also skipped Thursday.

“As you can imagine, many of the Democrats wanted to speak about the Robb Elementary tragedy and our commitment to ending gun violence,” said Jones. “But, seemingly because the Republicans couldn’t or wouldn’t tolerate us calling for action on gun violence, they cut off our right to speak.”

Michigan experienced its own mass shooting at Oxford High School in November, leaving four students dead and seven people injured. The gunman, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, is charged with murder and other counts for carrying out the shootings with a gun gifted to him by his parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, who also are facing charges.

Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills) represents Oxford and also leads the Michigan Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention Caucus.

“If they think that will make me be quiet they are wrong,” said Bayer.

Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak), took to Twitter to make sure she was heard, sharing a video of the speech she intended to give, but was prevented from delivering.

In the video, McMorrow asks her fellow legislators to think of their child or grandchild and what it is that makes them laugh. She then asks where they go to school, and if they walk or take the bus. 

Oxford High School, Dec. 3, 2021 | Allison R. Donahue

“Now imagine them sitting in their classroom, arm raised high, eyes trying to catch their teacher’s attention,” says McMorrow. “So eager to ask a question and to learn. Then … bang! I hear a shot so loud that the door shakes, their ears ring and they scream putting their hands to their ears. The room fills with screaming, crying, and panic. The door slams open. The gunman points and fires. They watch their best friend fall to the floor, shot dead in the chest, eyes wide open, blood pools to the ground. The ringing won’t stop. They look down and see blood splattered on their shirt. They get up to run, but they trip. A loose shoelace. You’ve been practicing together. You’d been trying, they’ve been getting better each day, but today they didn’t have it yet. A loose shoelace. And they tripped on their sneaker in a panic.”

McMorrow, now tearing up and her voice cracking, imagines receiving a call from the school needing you to give a DNA sample.

“The bodies are two mutilated to identify,” she continued. “So mutilated that they don’t even know how many kids there are, but they found the sneaker. Blood is drying on the top, but the name is still visible in Sharpie on the bottom. What if you knew that you had the power to do something so that you might never have to get that phone call? Wouldn’t you try?” 

McMorrow then relates that unlike most people in Michigan who feel powerless after such an act, they as legislators were not. 

“You have been called to this moment to do something,” urged McMorrow. “Don’t say that it’s impossible. Don’t say that we can’t do anything. Don’t say that now is not the time. Because as I said in November, following Oxford, the only thing that I know for sure is that doing nothing will not stop this from happening. It will not stop this one or the next one or the one after that or the one after that.”

McMorrow then concluded by noting that she and her Democratic colleagues have gun reform bills that have been waiting for committee hearings for years. 

“What will you do?” she asked. “Faith without works is dead.”

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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King is the Senior Reporter for the Michigan Advance and has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2022 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell.

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