On Saturday, less than five miles away from Michigan State University's campus where a mass shooting took place only five days earlier, delegates from counties throughout Michigan gathered to decide who would lead the state Republican Party as chair and co-chair.
One nominee did not shy away from talking about guns. West Michigan realtor and chair nominee Drew Born said that it was one of the rights he will fight for as well as the rights to life and freedom of speech.
“Next to my bed is my Bible, my marriage license, my Constitution and a gun, because I love the great outdoors as well,” Born said.
As rules for voting for the chair were debated for three hours, many delegates had time to talk about the MSU shooting and what problems they believe underlie the causes of the events on campus.
Stephanie Lelo is a delegate from Ottawa County and the Outreach Specialist for the College of Agriculture at MSU.
Lelo said nobody could do anything to stop Monday's shooting because MSU is a gun-free zone. She said it’s a “heart issue,” not a gun issue.
“The gun doesn't shoot itself,” Lelo said. “When we took God out of our schools and out of our university … we let in the devil and this is what happens.”
Lelo is upset with the way MSU “has bowed to the liberal left at every corner,” saying the university has fundamentally changed since she was a student. She blamed "Marxist principles" for pitting people against each other throughout the faculty and staff.
“(The university) no longer accepts dissenting opinions,” Lelo said. “They just want everyone to just fall in line and have the same views and they shouldn't.”
While Lelo said she doesn’t know the details of what she wants to see from mental health reform, she wants to reopen mental health hospitals because, according to her, when people do not get the help they need, it is treated as taboo. She said the mental health sector of the government is “broken.”
Alternate delegate Valentin Dumitrescu is from the 7th Congressional District delegation — which contains most of Ingham County. He is upset the shooting has been politicized and pointed towards gun control issues.
He blamed former Ingham County prosecutor Carol Siemon for admonishing the shooter of a felony and reducing it to a misdemeanor, which Dumitrescu said allowed him to purchase a gun after the shooter’s criminal past.
“If that prosecutor would have applied the law on the book, that person would not have had the gun,” Dumitrescu said. “So apply the laws on the book because any additional gun control is not relevant to the shooting. The laws on the book were ignored and that's why we have a bad shooting that cost the lives of three students.”
Dumitrescu encouraged others to study the details of current gun laws and what has failed in the regulation of firearms. He blamed the “hopelessness” that is taught in schools and mental health issues in younger generations for mass shootings in the United States.
“Mental depression and … mental health issues need to be the game,” Dumitrescu said. “Don't jump and hack the dandelions that you see on a lawn, but go to the root of those mental issues and address the roots. A spiritual revival in the nation is required to address those roots of mental depression and hopelessness that goes hand-in-hand with … mental issues.”
Dumitrescu said he wants the nation to “seek truth” and not be satisfied with slogans being promoted in political rallies.
Nick Rockey, from the 1st Congressional District in Charlevoix County, said he felt the biggest problem is not having enough law enforcement officers to keep up with the amount of crime in the state.
“It's hard to enforce laws when you don't have law enforcement,” Rockey said.
Diane Possamai, from the 11th Congressional District in Chippewa County, said you have your second amendment right “until you’ve done something wrong.”
“The first of all thing I want to say is we have the second amendment, and it says 'Thou shalt not infringe upon,'” Possamai said. “That means everybody has the right to have a gun. Number two, it's not the gun that kills anybody, it's a person behind it ... Some idiot who shouldn't have had a gun but was given one even though he had psychological problems got one – and those are the people that are going to get guns if they take them away.”
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However, Possamai said she is also not for more mental health reform.
“I don't see why you gotta add more to it," Possamai said. "It's just more money; we've got a lot of mental health departments, behavioral health departments, all kinds of people in schools that are counselors and what not. People know when a child is off its rocker. I mean as they grow up they shouldn't have guns if they have had mental problems.”
While gun issues were obviously on the mind of the attendees of the convention, the only time MSU was brought up explicitly was by the issues committee chair and former Republican nominee for the 73rd State House District Norm Shinkle.
“We’re in the middle of the Seventh District, which is the heart of the Spartan Nation,” Shinkle said. “I say two words to everyone here: Go Green.”
The crowd responded with "Go White."
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