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Gun violence is a public health crisis

Rep. Julie Rogers speaking on Advocacy Day 2023

In this op-ed, Rep. Julie Rogers thanks Michigan United Methodists for putting their faith into action on matters of gun violence prevention and encourages them to continue advocacy.

Michigan House of Representatives

For years, the epidemic of gun violence has affected Michigan, with little to no legislative action taken to address this public health crisis. However, many advocates and victims of gun violence spent years demanding that the state finally implement policies to protect the public and stem the tide of violence facing our communities. Groups like The Gifford Foundation, the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, and members of the faith community, like the Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church, spent years laying the groundwork for the commonsense gun violence prevention legislation passed and signed into law in 2023.

Signing bill into law
In November 2023, state legislators gathered for the signing of the final gun violence prevention bill of the year. Left to right: Sen. Sean McCann, Sen. Sue Shink, Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (behind Governor Whitmer), Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Sen. Stephanie Chang (holding the bill Governor Whitmer is holding), Rep. Amos O’Neal, Rep. Christine Morse, and Rep. Julie Rogers. ~ Facebook photo

Michigan United Methodists have been at the forefront of advocacy efforts to help the public and legislators understand that universal background checks, safe storage of firearms, and extreme risk protection orders are important steps that have broad popular support, have a meaningful impact on increasing public safety, and are absolutely necessary. Closing the open carry pistol-free zone loophole, holding people accountable if their negligence in firearm storage leads to tragedy, and making sure that every gun sale and transfer is subject to background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and domestic abusers are policies that are long overdue, and, as of February 13, 2024, will finally be state law.

It was a highlight of my year to be part of a crowd of members of the Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church on the Capitol steps at Advocacy Day, joining in fellowship to support the passage of these 11 laws. Standing among my brothers and sisters in faith, I felt the strength of our resolve and the manifestation of Jesus’ commandment in Mark 12:31: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (NRSVue). I witnessed the love for others in our state be demonstrated by the effort to unify around policies to save lives and care for members of our community. I also heard many positive remarks from my legislative colleagues about the respectful manner in which our congregations’ participants championed these policies on Advocacy Day.

I offer my sincere thanks for the many years of action and advocacy that allowed the Michigan legislature and Governor Gretchen Whitmer to take these first strides. These important policies are but a first step to stemming the tide of gun violence affecting our community. On January 29 and 30, 2024, Michigan’s first Gun Violence Prevention Summit will be held virtually to continue advocacy for safer communities and an end to gun violence. I hope that many of you will continue to advocate for other legislation that improves the lives of Michigan residents.

It is my fervent hope that this time next year, we will be celebrating further actions to safeguard our state and address the public health crisis of gun violence. As Chair of the House Health Policy Committee, I will continue to advocate that our health system address gun violence as a public health crisis and ensure that we look at interventions into gun violence from all angles, including better access to behavioral health care. Together, we will make real and significant changes in our laws, our culture, and our systems to prevent tragedies resulting from gun violence.

Julie Rogers, State Representative for the 41st House District, is a member of Portage Chapel Hill Church near Kalamazoo.

Last Updated on January 16, 2024

The Michigan Conference