Detroit City Councilmember Mary Waters has a message for state lawmakers: Change existing gun laws to allow cities to establish gun-free zones.
As a result of increased violence in and around downtown Detroit, Waters proposed the establishment of gun-free zones by calling on state lawmakers to expeditiously approve changes to current gun laws, which council members approved on Tuesday.
Waters’ proposed resolution was the first of two meant to stem gun violence that council voted on Tuesday. The Michigan Firearm and Ammunition Act 319 of 1990 prohibits cities from establishing gun-free zones in public spaces and council members are urging state legislators to repeal the law.
“I’ve had people approach me on both sides of the issue. You have the Second Amendment people, the NRA group that’s trying to intimidate me … but I’ve also had senior citizens telling me, ‘Thank you, Ms. Waters, for standing up for us here,’ ” Waters said Tuesday. “I’m not ignoring my neighborhoods and I don’t think this resolution even suggests that, but it does help us focus on these very large crowds.”
More: Detroit City Council to consider gun-free zones as advocates push back
More: As Detroit mourns security guard, police announce 12-point crowd control plan
Council passed the two resolutions. The first calls for urging state lawmakers to pass a Senate bill that would give municipalities control over establishing gun-free zones on public grounds and the second calls for drafting a gun-free zone ordinance, complying with existing laws, that would require public or private events of 500 people or more that receive a permit from the city to be established as gun-free zones.
The second resolution also suggests areas like the riverfront, Greektown, Hart Plaza, Spirit Plaza and Campus Martius be designated as gun-free zones. Carrying firearms in places such as churches, schools and stadiums is prohibited, an example Waters used as gun-free zones being anything but “foreign” as they already exist in some capacity.
Several council members were hesitant to support the second resolution. President Pro-Tem James Tate was concerned about a lack of discussion regarding enforcement and urged council members to be mindful about galvanizing the community about a proposed policy change that is in the early stages and depends on passage at the state level.
“We have not had discussions of that as a body. We have to have a better understanding of what these gun-free zones will actually look like,” Tate said. “I am very much in support of removing the preemption … giving us the ability as a city to self-determine.”
District 7 Councilman Fred Durhal III, who co-chairs the gun violence task force, said several of its members are uncomfortable with naming downtown as a primary focus.
“I do think that all of us recognize this as an issue,” Durhal said. “I’m just not comfortable having that say ‘downtown Detroit’ or outlining those specific communities at this time if it’s not applicable to areas like in District 7. … We get the (Detroit Police Department) updates all the time. Most of them (shooting alerts) don’t come from downtown Detroit, they come from in our neighborhoods.”
Waters stressed the downtown area since it serves as a hub for events drawing large crowds.
Member Coleman Young II said violent incidents garnering attention in downtown is not a good look for the city and stressed council should do anything possible with its authority, “starting with this: to make sure that we can actually be able to have the authority necessary to regulate these types of weapons from coming into these areas where people gather.”
The Senate bill was referred to the Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee and it isn’t clear when state lawmakers might vote on it.
Dana Afana is the Detroit city hall reporter for the Free Press. Contact Dana: email@example.com or 313-635-3491. Follow her on Twitter: @DanaAfana.