Students demand change at Capitol after MSU mass shooting, House passes memorial resolution

Dozens of lawmakers attended rally of 200+ students and activists

By: - February 15, 2023 8:32 pm

MSU students sit on the Michigan Capitol steps to demand gun reform following the Feb. 13, 2023 mass shooting at Michigan State University, Feb. 15, 2023 | Laina G. Stebbins

On the cold cement path to the Michigan Capitol sat hundreds of students in green and white, bracing against the wind, lined up as they would be at classroom desks — a community, awash in grief.

Speakers at the large, student-led rally on Wednesday echoed now-familiar sentiments that follow after a school or other safe place is terrorized by the recurring American experience of a mass shooting.

Late Monday night, a shooter opened fire in two Michigan State University buildings. Three MSU students were killed — Arielle Anderson, a junior from Grosse Pointe; Brian Fraser; a sophomore from Grosse Pointe; and Alexandria Verner, a junior from Clawson — while five more were critically injured.

Students and supporters at the steps of Michigan’s Capitol on Wednesday expressed a mixture of grief, anger, fear and solidarity as they called for lawmakers to enact gun reforms. U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) also spoke, along with Attorney General Dana Nessel, whose son was on campus shortly before the shooting started.

More than two dozen state lawmakers — the vast majority Democrats — attended and listened solemnly. State Rep. Brad Paquette (R-Niles) was also present and appeared to be the lone Republican legislator who stayed for some time.

Paquette’s office did not respond to a request for comment about whether the Republican would support gun control legislation.


At one point, lawmakers that attended were asked to stand directly before the grieving students on the steps, as a personal plea to recognize their humanity and take action to uphold it.

While students and activists shared their grief and demanded long-sought-after change, Nessel promised that the Michigan Legislature’s new Democratic majority will deliver and she will enforce those changes.

“I make you this commitment: To continue to work with the Legislature to make sure that we have better laws in place. And when we do, I’ll make sure that I, as your attorney general, do everything I can to aggressively enforce those laws and to do everything I can to keep you as safe as possible,” Nessel said.

After a silent sit-in during which MSU students shared their experiences, state Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) invited the crowd into the Capitol for the session. Many attendees wearing MSU’s colors of green and white then packed the pews of the House gallery. The chamber recognized first responders who were on the scene Monday night and then enacted a resolution expressing condolences for the tragedy and lives lost.

Many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle spoke in support of the resolution — with Democrats expressing sympathy amid vows for gun control legislation in the coming days, and Republicans offering prayers and requests that forthcoming legislation tackles mental health issues.

“Policy. Not political platitudes. That’s what our children deserve,” said state Rep. Stephanie Young (D-Detroit). “That’s what we’re going to deliver.”

“In my religion, there’s an expression that goes — ‏العلم بلا عمل كشجرة بلا ثمر — what that means is, knowledge without action is like a tree that does not bear fruit,” said Aiyash.


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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.