This Republican says background checks and anonymous reporting can reduce gun violence

The day before 17 people were killed in a Florida high school shooting, U.S. Representative Fred Upton (R-Mich.) Was visiting Central High School in Portage in southwest Michigan as he held a gunnery practice. live.

“This never happened when I was a student,” Upton said in a recent telephone interview with the Michigan Advance. “It was pretty scary for a parent like me.”

The next day – February 14, 2018 – a 19-year-old used an AR-15 rifle to shoot and kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The following week, Upton returned to Portage Central with the United States. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) Will meet with students, the sheriff, community leaders and school board members to discuss school safety.

These conversations, and the deep fear Upton heard from students and others, immediately resurfaced after Upton learned of the fatal shooting at Oxford High School on November 30.

Oakland County prosecutors said 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley used a semi-automatic shotgun to shoot and kill four students and injure seven others. The students killed were: Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 17.

United States Representative Fred Upton of Michigan | André Roth. Courtesy of Michigan Advance.

“It’s a scary nightmare,” Upton said in the interview this week. “No parent wants to think their son or daughter has gone to school and won’t come home. No child wants to be confronted with a gun held by someone in need of help.

To better prevent mass shootings, Upton noted that he was one of eight Republicans in 2018 and this year to vote for the bipartisan background check law. The congressman, who represents much of Southwest Michigan, was also one of five Republicans to co-sponsor legislation that would fill gaps in the background check system and require FBI background checks for nearly everyone. sales of firearms.

“We passed this again in the House, but the Senate did not act,” Upton said.

“People without a criminal record have nothing to fear,” the congressman continued, referring to the bipartisan background check law. “If you have that criminal record, whether it’s assault or domestic violence, you lose your right to buy a gun.”

Supporters of the law, including all members of the United States Democratic House from Michigan and Upton, are pushing the Senate to vote on basic legislation.

“Long before the events of Oxford, the United States House passed a bill requiring a basic background check for all firearms purchases, just as we do now at Walmart,” said Michigan Democratic Representative Elissa Slotkin, whose district includes Oxford. on the floor of the American house last week.

“This bill had both Democratic and Republican co-sponsors. It was one of the few cases where this organization rose to the occasion with a little common sense. … This bill currently sits in the US Senate. It could be voted on tomorrow if there was a will to act. So, please, our colleagues in the Senate: Take back this important bipartisan legislation. “

As has been the case with other laws, including the recently passed $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, Upton was the only Michigan Republican to support the bipartisan background check law.

While there is bipartisan agreement on some gun policies, such as background checks, preventing people with mental illness from buying guns, and not allowing people to carry concealed guns without a license, Republicans have been much more resistant to gun control than Democrats.

Republicans are more likely to be gun owners (Upton noted that he does not own guns) and generally don’t view gun violence as a major problem – 18% of Republicans see it as a major problem, compared to 73% of Democrats – according to the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan think tank based in Washington, DC.

And while Upton said in this week’s interview that he wanted to “point out, I support the Second Amendment,” he is, unlike the majority of his fellow Republicans, in favor of legislation on the Second Amendment. gun control.

In addition to the bipartisan background check law, Upton supports what is known as “red flag” legislation, which allows law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from a person who may constitute a criminal offense. danger to herself or to others.

In 2019, Upton introduced the Jake Laird Act of 2019 with Dingell and Representatives Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) And Ted Deutch (D-Fla.). The bill was never passed; it would have provided grants to encourage states to pass red flag laws.

In light of Oxford, Upton said, there must be strong anonymous reporting systems to allow students, parents and school officials, among others, to report potential threats of school violence. .

“A background check in this case probably wouldn’t have prevented that because the father had no criminal history and was clear to purchase the semi-automatic pistol with a number of cartridges,” Upton said.

“But in this particular case, it seems people knew it was a troubled youngster who posted some real threats on social media, and somehow these were. were never passed on to law enforcement, which was a huge mistake. “

According to police, Ethan Crumbley’s father, James Crumbley, bought the handgun on Black Friday that was allegedly used by his son to shoot his comrades the following Tuesday. James and his wife Jennifer Crumbley have been charged with four counts of manslaughter.

Oakland County District Attorney Karen McDonald said last week that on the day of the shooting, a teacher witnessed a drawing of Ethan Crumbley that included the words “Thoughts won’t stop, help me ”, a drawing of a bullet and the phrase:“ blood everywhere ”. McDonald said the 15-year-old’s parents were summoned to school in response to the drawing but refused to take him home.

Upton noted that a similar attack was likely averted at Paw Paw, Michigan, High School in 2018 because the sheriff received an anonymous tip from the public.

“Thank goodness Van Buren’s sheriff’s department was able to get information in advance of what was sure to be another Oxford at Paw Paw,” Upton said.

In the Paw Paw case, a 15-year-old teenager was arrested after police found him with guns and bomb-making equipment in his backpack; police said he planned to attack his school. The same individual, Aidan Ingalls, shot dead Charles Skuza, 73, before committing suicide on a South Haven pier earlier this year, police said.

Michigan State Representative Steve Carra, who announced in March that he was planning a Upton primary and has since gained approval from former President Donald Trump, had said he was drafting legislation that would allow schools maintain safes for school personnel to secure their personal firearms in the event of an attack.

Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, a national organization that advocates for gun reform, told a press conference recently that schools should not house guns.

“The last thing we should do is add more guns to our schools,” Watts said. “It is a terrible idea that puts our children even more at risk.”

Upton’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Carra’s proposal, but he said after the Parkland shooting that he opposed the arming of teachers.

“I do not join those who think schools would be safer by arming teachers for a whole host of reasons,” Upton said in 2018.

This story was originally published by Michigan Advance, an affiliate of the nonprofit States Newsroom, which includes the Florida Phoenix.

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