Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Wednesday

December 19, 2012

Gov. Snyder vetoes guns-in-schools legislation

'We don't need weapons in schools,' Steve Cousins says

DETROIT — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed legislation Tuesday that would have allowed concealed weapons in churches, schools and daycare centers, days after a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that weighed heavily on his mind.

The Republican governor said in a press release that he seeks a more "thoughtful review" related to gun violence that includes school emergency policies and mental health-related issues.

"While we must vigilantly protect the rights of law-abiding firearm owners, we also must ensure the right of designated public entities to exercise their best discretion in manners of safety and security," he said. "These public venues need clear legal authority to ban firearms on their premises if they see fit do so."

Traverse City Area Public Schools Superintendent Steve Cousins agrees with Snyder's move.

"I hope he vetoes it," Cousins said shortly before the veto was announced. "We don't need weapons in schools, even by people who have concealed permits. It doesn't fix anything, and it potentially puts kids in harms way."

Snyder told The Associated Press Monday that his concerns about the bill were heightened after Friday's massacre that left 26 people — including 20 children — dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. He also drew on memories of a fatal shooting in his college dormitory more than three decades ago.

Snyder said the Good Friday 1981 shooting at University of Michigan also played into his decision-making regarding the legislation. He was a law school student and resident adviser when a student set fires by throwing Molotov cocktails onto the floor and fired a shotgun, killing another resident adviser and a student who was trying to help get people off the floor.

He said he dealt with the fire alarm while two other student advisers went up to the floor where the gunman was. If it wasn't for an ailing resident director, Snyder said, he would have responded and "that most likely would have been me" who was shot.

The reflection shaped by the incident that he said still replays in his mind sharply contrasts with the whirlwind decisions made last week by the governor, who in the final days of the legislative session led a Republican effort to make the historically union-strong state the nation's 24th to enact right-to-work legislation limiting labor's power. It was one of an estimated 282 bills passed in the so-called lame-duck session that was capped by marathon 18-hour session over 2 days.

The gun legislation he vetoed would have prohibited openly carrying guns in those places while allowing permit holders to carry concealed weapons. But they couldn't do so if the locations declare themselves weapons-free zones under the state's trespassing laws.

Under existing law, people may openly carry guns in those and other locations, but it's illegal to carry concealed weapons in schools, churches and childcare centers.

Snyder has signed two other bills he said "streamline the process" for buying handguns and end restrictions on interstate rifle and shotgun transactions to states that do not border Michigan. Residents currently may buy those firearms in any contiguous state if they conform to state and federal regulations.

State Sen. Mike Green, a Republican from Mayville and a bill sponsor, said in a release that the veto means concerns from all sides of the issue won't be dealt with "in a reasonable, responsible way."

"I am deeply disappointed that the governor would prefer a confusing patchwork of gun laws around the state rather than the one clear standard for law-abiding citizens that was established in (the bill)," he said.

Zach Pohl, executive director of the liberal group Progress Michigan, said in a release that Snyder was "making the right call."

"This is a victory for school safety and common sense," he said.

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