Justice

County declares guns a public health crisis

Gun rights supporters call it a power grab, despite the fact the declaration doesn't change gun rules.

On Tuesday, the Kalamazoo County Commission voted to recognize the massive rise of gun violence over the past year as a public health emergency.

In 2020, 21 people were killed by firearms in Kalamazoo County. This year is on pace to match or surpass that, with 18 firearms deaths so far. That’s in addition to more than 70 injuries caused by firearms in 2021.

The declaration by the county commission frees up $1 million in federal stimulus money to be directed toward fighting the root causes of gun violence. It also directs county administrators to work with other local governments, including the City of Kalamazoo, which declared its own public health crisis earlier this month.

It does nothing to restrict the purchase or ownership of firearms in Kalamazoo County. That didn’t stop the four Republicans on the commission from voting against the measure. Nor did it stop dozens of residents from calling in to complain about the commission’s supposed attempt to “disarm” them.

“The resolution is a direct violation of our Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that attempts to deem the use of guns as a public health crisis, which would infringe the Second Amendment right of every American to keep and bear arms,” said several callers using identical language.

Vice Chair Tami Rey, a Democrat, told the commission that the measure is only meant to address the “underlying social, economic, and systemic factors that promote gun violence.”

“I also want to ensure folks that this resolution in no way violates anybody’s constitutional rights. I am not anti gun,” she said.

[MLive]