Here’s What Would Have Stopped the MSU Shooting

In the aftermath of Monday night’s horrific shooting at Michigan State University, which left three students dead and five fighting for their lives in the hospital, the predictable political cycle ensued. The usual suspects barely even waited for the three deceased to be identified before attempting to exploit the tragedy for political purposes. Actual solutions were almost completely absent from their grandstanding.

The worst of it was from Michigan House Minority Whip Ranjeev Puri, who took to Twitter the morning after to tell the Spartans’ well-wishers, “F*** your thoughts and prayers,” pledging to “pass common sense gun reform immediately.” What are those reforms? Puri did not do Michiganders the courtesy of mentioning any. Governor Gretchen Whitmer released a video in which she decried “a uniquely American problem” and told constituents, “We shouldn’t have to live like this.” What will she do to ensure that we do not? Again, no solution offered.

To his credit, President Joe Biden at least offered some actual proposals. The problem is that none of them would have prevented the shooting. In a White House statement, Biden called upon Congress to enact such policies as “requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, closing loopholes in our background check system, requiring safe storage of guns, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets.”

MSU Police revealed that the shooter used two 9-millimeter handguns, both legally purchased, meaning the shooter would have had to undergo a background check in either the purchasing or licensing phase. The mentions of “assault weapons” and “weapons of war” refer to AR-15-style long guns, which the shooter did not use, so that is an entirely irrelevant statement, as is the comment about safe storage. As for the background check loophole item, there is no evidence that the shooter benefited from any such loophole.

But even if Democrats had proposed a workable solution, no new laws would have been necessary to stop the tragedy. Simply enforcing the laws that are already in place likely would have saved the lives of the three young Spartans.

The chief obstacle to that end was Ingham County’s progressive Democratic former prosecutor Carol Siemon, who retired at the end of last year. During her tenure, she crossed paths with the shooter, who was arrested in 2019 and charged with carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. That crime is a felony under Michigan law, but Siemon dismissed the original felony charge and allowed the shooter to plead it down to a misdemeanor. Had she maintained the initial charge, the shooter would have almost assuredly been barred from buying the guns he used to commit the massacre.

Siemon’s decision was not merely horrible in hindsight. The Washington Free Beacon has a report detailing the numerous times throughout her tenure in which colleagues admonished her for her dereliction. In August 2021, just after the eventual shooter finished serving the paltry amount of jail time from his misdemeanor, Siemon, who has worked with and been lauded by progressive billionaire George Soros, made it her office’s official policy to be soft on gun crimes, as she had been on the shooter. A month after that decision, Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth failed to convince the East Lansing City Council to stop her from pursuing that approach. Her strategy for prosecuting gun crimes was so universally recognized as terrible that one of the very first acts of her successor, John Dewane, was to reverse it when he took office.

Ingham County learned its lesson — that progressive criminal justice policies make communities less safe — the hardest way possible. Siemon’s departure and Dewane’s taking over came too late to prevent the tragedy from earlier this week, but the new leadership will hopefully stop another one from happening. However, there are still places where practices like Siemon’s bloody policy are in effect, including the county in which the University of Michigan resides.

As soon as he took office, Washtenaw County prosecutor Eli Savit instituted a slew of progressive reforms, such as refusing to authorize charges for the illegal possession of guns found at traffic stops and eliminating cash bail. Time and time again we see these soft-on-crime policies lead to disaster, as they did at Michigan State earlier this week. Those in the justice system must commit to putting away dangerous people and ensuring they do not have access to guns. Laws, whether new or old, mean nothing if they are not enforced, and prosecutors must enforce them before another tragedy occurs.

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About Charles Hilu

Charles Hilu was editor in chief of the Michigan Review. He is currently the Intercollegiate Studies Institute fellow at the Washington Free Beacon.