Representative Gina Johnsen (R-Lake Odessa), along with twelve other supporters in the Michigan GOP, sponsored changes to current state law with House Bill 4285 that would allow those with concealed carry permits to conceal carry firearms in Michigan colleges and universities.
State law currently prohibits firearms in residence halls and classrooms at Michigan higher education institutions. Michigan law also prohibits firearms in child care institutions, sports arenas/stadiums, entertainment facilities, hospitals as well as religious institutions.
In an interview with MLive, Rep. Johnsen stated that the driving force behind the amendment was the events of the Feb. 13th MSU shooting. She stated that she would be “horrified at the thought” of her children being in a similar situation and not having the ability to defend themselves, according to MLive.
The proposed amendments to these laws would allow for the concealed carrying of firearms in these spaces if they are “owned or operated by an institution of higher education.”
The current gun policy at Michigan State University prohibits open carrying of firearms anywhere on University property. Other Michigan campuses such as Grand Valley State University and University of Michigan have the same policies.
The policy also prohibits concealed carrying of firearms in any University owned buildings and entertainment venues, however allows those with concealed carry permits to concealed carry in outdoor public venues on campus, as per a Board of Trustees ordinance.
Rep. Johnsen stated that allowing firearms would promote safety on Michigan campuses.
“Law-abiding gun owners should be allowed to carry on college campuses,” Johnsen said in a statement. “Everyone deserves the right to protect themselves and others. Disarming responsible individuals only puts lives at risk. By trusting lawful citizens and implementing sensible policies, we can create a safer environment for students, faculty, and staff.”
Senator Rosemary Bayer (D-District 13) disagrees with the notion that allowing firearms on college campuses would create a safer environment for students in the event of a mass shooting.
“The likelihood of being successful at defending yourself with a firearm in any circumstance is very low, it typically does not work," Bayer said. "If people don't actually defend themselves, they actually end up getting shot, usually with their own firearms. So just as a mechanism, it's not going to be helpful in a situation that is so stressful.”
A study conducted by John Hopkins University states that the average death toll in high-fatality mass shootings increase following the implementation of concealed carry laws, from an average of 7.5 to 8.4 fatalities.
Gun violence prevention activist and communications senior Charlotte Plotzke said that allowing firearms in college residence halls and classrooms is a “slap in the face for everything that activists have been trying to do.”
She said that the volume of students at MSU, which is approximately 50,000 total students, is a cause for concern in conversations concerning firearms on campus.
“College campuses are not a place for firearms, especially on a campus that has like the volume that we do,” Plotzke said. “This bill is just really frustrating and defeating to see because, as an activist, we really try to educate people on the facts and statistics of American gun violence.”
Plotzke said that she believes there will be opposition from many students, as well as other young voters, if this bill were to be passed.
“There's going to be a lot of pushback from students and I want the lawmakers to be aware of that,” she said.
The bill, which was introduced in March 2023, was referred to the Committee of Government Operations and has yet to be passed by the Michigan House of Representatives or Senate before hitting Gov. Whitmer's desk.
Rep. Johnsen was unavailable to comment at the time of publication.