Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist at the Mackinac Policy Conference, June 1, 2022 | Laina G. Stebbins
Six months after a school shooting in Oxford left four students dead, another mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, has state leaders discussing what needs to change to make sure it never happens again.
For Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, a parent of elementary-school-age children, it’s personal.
The Advance asked Gilchrist what needs to be done in Michigan to address gun violence to avoid another tragedy.
“Frankly, it’s frustrating that we haven’t seen popular gun violence prevention legislation, that doesn’t infringe on anyone’s identity as a gun owner, move forward in the state of Michigan. And so that frustrates me, and I hope that there would be more courage shown in our Legislature to be able to at least have a debate about it,” he said.
The Advance also talked with Gilchrist about supporting students who are behind in their education because of the pandemic.
Last month, the Whitmer administration rolled out the MI Kids Back on Track program to expand tutoring and other learning support in K-12 schools. The program would invest $280 million of the state’s $3 billion in additional revenue to help schools hire tutors for the program. The GOP-led Legislature would need to approve the funding.
The Advance asked Gilchrist if he is concerned about what it would mean for Black women in Michigan, who disproportionately lack access to abortion care, if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Roe v. Wade is the 1973 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that enshrined the right to abortion in the U.S. Constitution. But a draft decision from SCOTUS was leaked last month that showed the conservative-majority court’s intention to overturn Roe, which will be decided this month.
Michigan has a 1931 felony abortion ban on the books that is currently unenforceable after a Court of Claims judge granted a preliminary injunction in a suit brought by Planned Parenthood against Michigan’s 1931 ban.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also filed a lawsuit to enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution.
Gilchrist said the potentially detrimental impact an abortion ban could have on Black women and families is “one of the motivating factors for why our administration took action.”
“I am very concerned about if Roe falls, what that means for Black women, for women of color broadly, for women who are living in poverty, for whom it is difficult to access all sorts of health care and other support services, let alone access to abortion care, which is a critical part of health care for people in Michigan,” he said.
I'm a parent of elementary-school-age children. It's your worst nightmare that that would happen in your children's school, but frankly, my worst nightmare is any person, let alone any child, dying from gun violence.
– Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist
The following are excerpts from the interview:
Michigan Advance: I have just an array of questions I want to talk about, but I want to ask first about your post-COVID recovery. How has that been?
Gilchrist: It has been as uneventful as you want it to be. Thankfully, I had a case where I was asymptomatic, as was my son. My wife and my daughters had mild symptoms, but thankfully our experience with COVID and after it has been uneventful. And that’s because, I believe, we got vaccinated. My wife and I got boosted, and we’re a testament to the effectiveness of that from preventing serious illness. And so we’ve been able to come back and do the types of things that we want to do, here all across Michigan.
Michigan Advance: Have you gotten your second booster yet?
Gilchrist: I haven’t. I’m not sure that I’m eligible for the second booster. I won’t turn 40 until September. So I don’t think I’m eligible yet.
Michigan Advance: I also wanted to talk with you about the school shooting down in Texas. So we had our own tragedy in Oxford six months ago, and now the country is reeling again from another school shooting. What needs to be done here in Michigan to make sure that never happens again?
Gilchrist: Well, first of all, I’m a parent of elementary-school-age children. It’s your worst nightmare that that would happen in your children’s school, but frankly, my worst nightmare is any person, let alone any child, dying from gun violence. The truth is that happens too often, in too many communities, in too many parts of our country.
And so I was certainly heartbroken by what I saw. I was frustrated by the lack of policy action that’s happened over the last 10-plus years when it comes to gun violence prevention across the country.
I used to work in this space as an advocate. I stood with parents of kids who were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I was on Capitol Hill the last time the United States Senate voted on universal background checks, in 2013 I believe it was, with a woman whose daughter was a survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting. So I saw failure at the federal level there.
And frankly, it’s frustrating that we haven’t seen popular gun violence prevention legislation, that doesn’t infringe on anyone’s identity as a gun owner, move forward in the state of Michigan. And so that frustrates me, and I hope that there would be more courage shown in our Legislature to be able to at least have a debate about it. And you saw an attempt to do that a week or so ago, but I hope the legislation would actually take these things up for debate and conversation.
Michigan Advance: Are you hopeful? Have you had any conversations with leaders from the Republican side about possibly moving that legislation forward?
Gilchrist: I’m certainly ready to have that conversation with them. The governor and I stand ready to work with anybody who’s about saving lives. And that’s what this is about, preventing death, preventing harm, preventing the kind of community chaos and despair that comes from persistent gun violence that exists in cities and urban areas, as well as in our rural communities, and suicide and all that stuff. We need to have folks ready to propose solutions that can help this, and so we’re ready to sit at the table with anybody.
Michigan Advance: The MI Kids Back on Track program, I was wondering if you see that as more of a short-term solution to the learning loss caused by the pandemic or is that a long term program that you see lasting for a few years?
Gilchrist: Well certainly, this is about helping students complete their unfinished learning. And again, I talk about being a parent of school-age children, who are finishing third grade right now. As a parent, I observed unfinished learning with my own kids. So this is about helping to support the school districts that have developed programming, and to respond to this unfinished learning, and do so in a targeted way.
And so certainly, you cannot execute on that and complete that work overnight. So this is going to be something that’s going to take time. And districts are prepared for that and we’re proud to invest and support it, and it’s part of our broader agenda to support education professionals and support districts that are investing in the resources to help our children be where they need to be academically, emotionally, so that they can be positioned to be good learners, be great citizens, to continue their education and start their career initiative.
I am very concerned about if Roe falls, what that means for Black women, for women of color broadly, for women who are living in poverty, for whom it is difficult to access all sorts of health care and other support services …
– Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist
Michigan Advance: Have you considered the possible implications that it will have on Black women and Black families, especially in Detroit, if Roe is overturned?
Gilchrist: This is one of the motivating factors for why our administration took action. We didn’t need a leaked Supreme Court opinion draft to know what was at stake. And so that is why, our administration, Gov. Whitmer, took a strong action to call for the state Supreme Court to resolve this question. And we have seen progress with the preliminary injunction that’s been issued on a similar lawsuit, but we believe that the Michigan constitution protects the right to abortion care.
And so the governor called for the state Supreme Court to answer that question, and we believe, affirm and assert the right to abortion care here in Michigan. I am very concerned about if Roe falls, what that means for Black women, for women of color broadly, for women who are living in poverty, for whom it is difficult to access all sorts of health care and other support services, let alone access to abortion care, which is a critical part of health care for people in Michigan. And so that is why this action was taken.
And that’s why we’re hoping that it’s resolved quickly so that there’s clarity for people in Michigan about the care they should have a right to.
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