I’ll be the first to admit that the issue of gun safety – like almost all issues today — is a complex one. It is certainly not black and white for me.
On the one hand, I have personal experience with gun violence. When I was 16, my favorite uncle was walking into a convenience store in Flint, MI, when 5 young people rushed out. He stood in the parking lot as the people who had just robbed the store got into their car. When they got on the street and stopped at the corner, one of them leaned out the back window and shot him in the stomach with a shotgun.
My uncle picked himself up off the parking lot and staggered into the store to ask the clerk if she was okay before collapsing on the floor and dying. I wasn’t there in that parking lot that night – but I have imagined that event so many times that it is almost like I was there. Though it was 25 years ago, the scene often flashes across my mind almost every night as I lay my head on my pillow. And, so when I was 16, I saw firsthand what guns can do to a person I loved, and how that effect can devastate a family. My uncle had two children who were 6 and 4 when he died, as well as a wife and brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews and parents and friends. None of us made it through that night untouched.
On the other hand, I grew up around guns. My dad is a hunter. We used his 10-point mount as a coat rack when I was a kid. My sister is also a hunter, as is her husband. I have life-long friends who are police officers and friends and family in the military. Many people in my life are responsible gun owners, and they have every right to stay that way.
Here’s the thing – even though this is a complex issue, I fully reject the idea that we can’t do anything to make it better. I think complex issues require complex solutions, and arriving at those solutions is hard work, and will require deep consideration and collaboration – but they are achievable if our leaders do the actual work of leadership. There is no one solution that will solve everything that needs to be fixed about gun safety, but just because not one thing will solve everything, we shouldn’t throw up our hands and do nothing.
I believe it is the duty of our government to do the hard work of finding the balance between the right to own guns responsibly and the right to be safe.
We need to consider all angles of this issue — from background checks to school safety to mental health to domestic violence to red flag laws to technology to education. We should put all of it on the table and find the adaptive and multi-pronged solution that makes sense – that will keep us all the safest while protecting a fundamental right. That’s why I respect organizations like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America – because they aren’t anti-gun, and they aren’t pro-gun – they are pro-gun sense and pro-gun safety. And I’m so proud that they have identified me as a Gun Sense Candidate.
There’s been a fundamental failure of the most sacred duty of government to protect its citizens – and in particular its children. We need to elect people who are willing to open up this discussion and actually consider what’s best for our communities. People who are beholden to the voters and not to the gun lobby or other special interests.
We need to elect leaders with the ability to find the complex solutions needed for complex problems and work with people with different views to understand their perspectives and arrive at a mutual decision. We sadly seem to be in short supply of these leaders in Lansing and in DC, and I hope with this next election we will change that. Because there is a way to arrive at the right mix of solutions that prioritizes safety and still affords the right to own guns responsibly.
I’m willing to work with my colleagues in Lansing on both sides of the aisle to find that solution. Our children are counting on us to get it right.
I am pro-life. By that, I mean that in addition to seeking to eliminate the need for abortion in our world, I am pro-health care, pro-education, pro-living wage, and pro-being a decent human to other humans after they are born.
If someone is singularly focused on birth and not feeding a hungry child, housing a homeless family, and making sure all children get a quality education, then that person is pro-birth, and not pro-life.
We must work toward a day where the need for abortions is eliminated. To do this we need to invest in education, contraception, and maternal health care.
We need to end the cycles of poverty and abuse and neglect. We need to eliminate health complications that put mothers’ lives at risk by investing heavily in maternal medicine research – especially for women of color who die in childbirth at rates 3 times higher than white women.
We need to turn elements of our culture that objectify women into a culture that elevates and respects them so that rape, sex trafficking, and sexual abuse no longer exist.
We need to create a society where all pregnancies are wanted, and all expecting mothers are safe during their pregnancy, labor and delivery, and post-partum.
Until we eliminate any need to terminate a pregnancy, then the ability to do so must be available to women – and the decision should be the woman’s alone.
When I was in my 20s I worked for the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York City for about 18 months as the HR Director and office manager. This was during the only 5 years of my life I lived outside of Michigan.
My job there was to run the back office, conduct interviews, make sure the coffee and copier toner got ordered and manage the receptionist and the mailroom workers.
CRR is a non-profit human rights law firm that represents clients in national and internal reproductive justice cases. In the short time, I was there, CRR represented women in the U.S. who had been denied their right to contraception, quality prenatal care, and abortion services.
CRR also represented women internationally who were the victims of forced sterilization as a form of ethnic cleansing. The mission of CRR was and is to use the power of law to advance reproductive rights as fundamental human rights around the world. They work to expand access to reproductive healthcare, including birth control, safe abortion, and prenatal and obstetric care. Though I was there only a brief time and my role was very limited, I couldn’t be prouder to have worked there.
We know that countries with the most restrictive abortion laws have the highest rates of abortion, and that easier access to birth control drives down abortion rates. We also know that in the United States one in 4 women will make the decision to have an abortion by age 45, and that a good number of those women are already moms. So, it is likely we all know a woman who has had to face that toughest of choices even if they haven’t disclosed it.
When asked about reproductive rights, the face of a woman who is very close to me comes to my mind. She was a mom already and the birth of her first child almost killed them both. She was told that she and her husband could never conceive again and when they did they were terrified – with good reason – that if they went forward with the pregnancy, their first child would be left without a mom. She agonized over this decision but made the heart-wrenching choice to terminate her pregnancy.
We must trust women to consult with their doctors and make the best decision in their unique circumstance. Government has no place in that conversation.
I agree with Sister Joan Chittister, a Catholic Nun, who said, “I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”
Factual articles regarding abortion:
Abortion rates go down when countries make it legal
US abortion rates fell 25% from 2008-2014
Abortion rates are at an all-time low, thanks largely to better access to birth control