December 18, 2012
Governor Rick Snyder
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, MI 48909
Dear Governor Snyder:
We the undersigned write to urge your veto of Senate Bill 59, legislation that would, among other things, allow some private citizens to carry concealed weapons in schools, day care centers, and other gun-free zones. While our hearts go out to the families of victims of last week's Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, it is the potential for accidents, the overall safety of schools, and the appropriate role of school faculty during a disaster that should be the focus of public policy.
Though far less tragic and perhaps more relevant to a discussion of Senate Bill 59 is the story of two hospital workers in Colorado who were injured this November when a concealed pistol carried by a fellow staff member accidentally went off. The gun was legally carried into the hospital as Colorado courts recently overturned that state's gun-free zone law, which, like Michigan's, had previously covered hospitals.[i] The parallel with Michigan is both unavoidable and appropriate.
Gun accidents kill far more children than mass murders. One hundred and eighty people under the age of 24 were killed by gun accidents in 2009, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control Division of Vital Statistics.[ii] This compares with 17 homicides of youth at school during the 2009-10 year.[iii] Why then, would Michigan want to introduce weapons into schools and day care settings where children would almost certainly be the victims of any accidental shootings?
Similarly, though some argue that current policy only deters law-abiding citizens rather than criminals, the evidence suggests that weapon-free zones are an effective way to keep schools safe. Nationwide, only 1% of all youth homicides occurred at school in 2008-2009, and the percentage of all youth homicides occurring at school has been less than 2% since the 1992-1993 school year. During the 2009-10 school year, there was approximately one homicide or suicide of a school-age youth at school per 2.7 million students enrolled,[iv] or an average of one homicide for a student population almost twice the size of Michigan's. In other words, current policy keeps most students safe at school and, while tragedies do happen, the risks of additional weapons in our schools are not justified in light of the current level of student safety.
Finally, the introduction of concealed weapons into schools raises the important question of the role of school faculty during these incidents. Although the Connecticut gunman murdered 20 students in Friday's shooting, the teachers, administrators, and other staff at Sandy Hook Elementary were able to prevent the deaths of the over 400 other students enrolled in the school.[v] This may not have been the case had those faculty members been armed and focused on confronting the gunman directly rather than moving students to safety. Carrying a concealed handgun increases the chances of a confrontation escalating and turning lethal. The odds of a handgun being used inappropriately rise when normally responsible adults are intoxicated, tired, afraid, or untrained in conflict resolution.[vi] Indeed, the death toll in Newtown could have been considerably higher had more guns been present since a person carrying a gun for self-defense is 4.5 times more likely to be shot during an assault than someone without a gun.[vii]
In consideration of the potential negative consequences that the elimination of current gun-free zones would provide, Michigan's education and childcare communities join our voices along with parents, child advocates and the 72 percent of Michigan citizens who oppose Senate Bill 59[viii] in urging your veto of this legislation. Michigan's children need and deserve support and protection, but Senate Bill 59 is not the solution.
[i] "Two injured when CU staffer with concealed carry permit fires gun accidentally," The Denver Post, November 13, 2012.
[ii] Division of Vital Statistics, Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Deaths: Final Data for 2009," National Vital Statistics Reports Volume 60, Number 3, December 29, 2011.
[iii] Robers S, Zhang J, Truman J, Synder TD, "Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2011," National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, and Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Washington, DC; 2010.
[v] "Enrollment Report as of November 30, 2012," Newtown Public Schools, Newtown, CT.
[vi] David Hemenway, PhD, Deborah Azrael, PhD, and Mathew Miller, MD, "Gun Use in the United States: Results from Two National Surveys," Injury Prevention, Dec. 2000.
[vii] Charles Branas, et al., "Investigating the Link Between Gun Possession and Gun Assault," American Journal of Public Health, Nov. 2009.
[viii] "New survey finds most voters oppose concealed weapons in schools, college classrooms and other forbidden places," MLive.com, Thursday, April 19, 2012.
UPDATE: 12/18/12 as of 4:00pm the Governor has vetoed the bill