No political risk to stiffer gun laws, but big risk in being soft on crime


Carol Siemon didn’t have a chance to run for reelection as Ingham County prosecutor on her policy not to charge felony firearm cases. Her argument was that a wide majority of these defendants were Black. Instead, she retired halfway through her term.

If she had run, she wouldn’t have crested 40% in a one-on-one against a Democratic primary opponent with an opposite position. In fact, her appointed replacement reversed the policy nine days into the job.

He gets it. Blending social justice with decisions on not enforcing laws simply doesn’t fly, politically anyway. 

Siemon’s 2021 felony firearm policy came well after the 2019 arrest of Anthony McRae, the suspect in the MSU mass shooting Monday, on a gun possession charge, but Siemon was in the chair when McRae was allowed to plead down to a misdemeanor, giving him 12 months’ probation and no prison time.

The maximum penalty for McRae’s felony charge of carrying a concealed weapon is five years in prison. If McRae had been socked away for five years back then, he’d be sitting in a cell the night of Feb. 13, not shooting up Berkey Hall.

Sure, no first-time offender like McRae is getting a maximum penalty on a first offense, but the point remains the same. 

Being soft on crime in the name of social justice is a political loser, especially when there’s a tragedy like the one at Michigan State. 

Mass shooting or no, Republicans and Democrats are so entrenched in their positions that literally nothing is going to allow them to meet in the middle.

I said in a June 2022 column that even expanded background checks on firearm purchases are so politically polarizing that only if the Democrats controlled the legislative and executive branches could any policy changes happen.

Well, Democrats now have the state House and Senate and the leaders of both caucuses are pledging that “common-sense gun control” is on the way.

The only questions are how quickly legislation will get to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and how extensive they want to get.

Expanding background checks, new gun storage mandates and keeping guns out of the hands of those suspected as being a threat to themselves or others are all but a guarantee to be signed into Michigan law, probably before Father’s Day.

Most gun control laws are widely supported in polling. Keeping guns away from those convicted of domestic violence or the mentally unhinged isn’t going to hurt Democrats at the polls. In fact, it’d probably help them.

Most Michiganders agree gun laws should be tightened up so random crackpots can’t hole away an arsenal of assault weapons for God knows what reason.

Where Dems fall into political risk is not being tough enough on crime. Gun control only works if the people who break the laws are held accountable for them.

Take sketchy, gun-toting types like DeAnthony VanAtten, the armed, masked Lake Lansing Meijer shoplifter who got a couple of bullets last September for running away from the cops.

Remember how the East Lansing City Council wanted Attorney General Dana Nessel to drop the charges against VanAtten?

Nessel did. 

Then on Tuesday, she tweeted the following Nessel-like snarky message:

“Does the East Lansing City Council and Mayor still want me to dismiss this case? Or is it OK for my department to treat gun cases seriously now? Please advise.”

Nessel’s tweet isn’t woke, but polling shows a majority of Americans aren’t “woke,” either.

As long as we run this country and this state on the will of the majority, here are two things that good politicians are astutely aware of. 

A) There’s never a risk in admonishing racist acts, blatant or subtle.

B) Political stands designed to drive social change stop becoming popular when people feel their own personal safety is at risk. 

Ask the former Ingham County prosecutor how blending social justice with decisions on whether to enforce certain laws worked out for her.


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