Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:
- Marcus Edwards, a strong student who is responsible for walking his siblings to school, needs a safe way to get to school without the risk of running into gun violence because there was a recent shooting on his street three days ago.
3. Potential Solutions:
Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.
Solution 1: Create after school mentor program to give kids after school activities and access to safe rides home. The program could be run by volunteers through each school – a mentor would serve one student and after the mentor session, they could drive or walk the student home. I believe that creating an after school program will lead to a decrease in illegal gun violence. When interviewing Jessica Mindich, of the Caliber Foundation, she mentioned that lack of activities for inner city students can lead the student to getting involved with guns and violence to fill their free time. I am modeling the concept around a program that was implemented in Highland Park, MI. The after school program lead to a sharp decrease in youth crime. According to a United States Education Report, “When an after-school program opened in Highland Park, Michigan, crime dropped 40 percent in the surrounding neighborhood”. I believe the success of this program can be replicated to fight illegal gun violence.
Solution 2: Expand voluntary gun buyback programs by awarding state grants to specific foundations. Through the buy back, members of the community sell turn in their weapon and receive a gift card or cash in return. The program aims to take guns off the streets that were obtained illegally and safely dispose of them. For many, when purchasing or using an illegal weapon, there is no safe way to get rid of the gun – that’s where the buy backs come in. By working with a foundation, and not directly through the police, you will be able to get guns off the streets that wouldn’t be turned in otherwise. Sheriff Benny Napoleon, of Wayne County says gun buyback programs "are effective because they allow people to get rid of weapons in their homes they don't want around."Through a state grant, the buyback programs would be able to purchase more illegal weapons off the streets.
Solution 3: Create a registry for ammunition purchases. To deter illegal gun violence, creating a registry of everyone that purchases bullets may help decrease the number of shootings and acts of violence. By creating one additional step to obtain bullets, you may deter individuals who do not want their name on a registry. These individuals would most likely be the people who are weary of their name being attached to ammunition purchases like people who own illegal weapons.
The registry could be used to match bullets purchased to the gun the owner is registered to use – for example, if I were to go purchase shells for a gun that I do not have registered to myself, my name would be flagged as someone who potentially owns an illegal weapon. This system would ultimately discourage illegal gun ownership because it creates one more checkpoint in the gun ownership process and will make it harder to fire the weapon.
I am modeling this solution around the concept of prescriptions. Just like how you are unable to get medication that is not prescribed to you, I am looking to create a solution where you cannot purchase ammunition for a gun not registered to you.
BACKGROUND AND RESEARCH PROCESS Context
Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:
House Bill 6135 relataes to my proposal on limiting illegl gun ownership. This house bill restricts gun ownership from convicted felons. Although this only targets felons, it combats one of the types of illegal gun ownership - which is unlicensed gun ownership. This bill makes it illegal for felons to own weapons.
Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:
My proposal will benefit all students who are concerned for their safety when it comes to gun violence. Specifically, my initiative will focus on Detroit students as that is where the highest gun violene has the highest prevlance. By focusing on Detroit, a city that has had extreme economic hardship, this proposal will help students who have a low economic status. This proposal does not individually target boy or girls although through my reasearch I have been able to conclude that this proposal will mainly impact young males - this is due to men being at a higher risk for being murdered than females. A study by Kellerman stated "A total of 215,273 homicides were studied, 77% of which involved male victims and 23% female victims"
Fighting illegal gun violence and illegal gun ownership will help ease students minds as they go to and from school, play outside, and ease their stress over the safety of their neighborhoods.
How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?
I originally learned about the issue of illegal gun violence through having a conversation with Jessican Mindich of the Caliber Foundation. I met Jessica at an event where my business was selling our product, we connected and actually created a piece of jewlery made out of shell casings that were collected from illegal crime scenes in Detroit. From our collaboration piece, I was able to work directly with the Detroit Police Department to learn about the maginitude of the issue of illegal weapons in the city.
How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?
I have volunteered with the Big Brother Big Sister Progam of Washtenaw County. I was a co-mentor with another University of Michigan Student. We worked with an 8-year old boy, Jacob, that lived in Ypsilanti, a neighboring community of Ann Arbor. Although I did not directly discuss gun violence with our mentee, I did have an opportunity to hear more about Jacob's family and their history. Prior to moving to Ypsilaniti 2 years ago, Jacob was enrolled in Detroit Public Schools as his family lived on the Eastside of the city. Jacob's mom shared with me the worries she had about Jacob and her younger son while they were living in Detroit. The insight she shared with me, and the fears that she described related to a general uneasy feeling about the violence that was occuring around their community. She shared with me that their home also had a gun in it, because they felt that it was needed to protect the family. I found this story extremely concerning and shows a strong need to end the gun violence - this insight helped shaped my focus to fighting illegal gun violence in Detroit.
No family should feel the need to keep a gun nearby to protect themselves. Removing the illegal weapons from the streets could drastically improve the lives of families like Jacob's.
Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:
Jessica Mindich is the founder of the Caliber Foundation. The Caliber Foundation fits perfectly with my proposal as their goal is to end illegal gun violence in major cities across the United States. The Caliber Foundation hosts voluntary buyback programs in Newark, San Francisco, Miami, and Detroit. I have known Jessica since I originally started my Detroit based business that also looked to solve the gun violence in Detroit through the power of business and entrepreneurship.
My consultation with Jessica was to help gain a better understanding on how gun buyback programs work. Jessica began by explaining that hosting these buybacks requires permission from the city, permission from the location you will be hosting the buyback and also permission from the surrounding community. Prior to the consultation, I had an idea that the city would have to give permission to host these events, but I was ignorant to the fact that you would also need the communities support. Jessica stressed “Buybacks will be extremely unsuccessful if you march into a city, plant your feet, and demand their guns…communities take offense to that sort of brash behavior…you have to involve the locals and get their advice on how to best remove the guns off the streets.” Jessica also explained that when you are dealing with something as dangerous as illegal guns, you must ensure the community supports you to help mitigate any safety concerns that may arise from an angered citizen. She also argues, with community support you will not be seen in a negative way and will be able to recruit more volunteers, safety inspectors, and advocates for the programs.
Jessica’s comment about involving the communities lead me to asking how buybacks differ across different cities. We discussed how every city has their own unique culture and view on firearms, and that you must adapt to how they perceive guns. For example, If a city advocates for gun ownership, you must stress how the buybacks are strictly for illegal gun ownership to ensure that you do not anger the community. Jessica’s insight on this will help me shape the programs to be community/city specific initiatives.
Jessica and I have remained in contact for the duration of this project, and she will be helping me draft up my final proposal for the legislature.
Jessica also shared some images with me of a recent buyback she hosted in Detroit:
Doug Schwartz, a local business owner and resident of Detroit, shared his thoughts on the gun violence in Detroit and how communities can make change through grass roots movements. Doug is the owner of Detroit Wick, a candle business in the Eastern Market business district. Doug originally had his operations in the suburbs, but moved his operations downtown as he wanted to “be a part of the change that’s happening all of the city”.
I started my conversation with Doug by asking about his personal experience with the gun culture of Detroit. Doug stated, “Detroit loves its guns. Every day, someone walks into my store with a gun on their hip or tucked in their pants,” he also went on the state, “Originally, it would frighten and anger me, but from living in the city for so long, it has become just a normal thing…almost a way of life down here.” This comment really stood out to me; it made me think, are guns in Detroit so normal that people do not want to get rid of them?
My conversation with Doug went on to discussing my idea of having businesses support the buyback proposal through monetary donations – “Yes! I love that,” he said. “Giving business the opportunity to truly create change in the city will create a safer environment for their customers and employees while also helping ALL the residents in the city.”
My conversation with Doug lead me to exploring the business partnerships as a way to fund the program and take the burden off the State.
I spoke with Jewell Jones, Michigan’s youngest elected councilman of Inkster to understand how the state and local communities decide which initiatives to fund and contribute to.
Jewell shared some great ideas to target individual municipalities to look for startup funding; “Receiving a State grant is extremely time intensive and has a high failure rate…but, if you are able to convince a local municipality of the benefits of funding a gun buyback, they may be able to find some excess funding in their budget.” His thoughts are leading me to going to local municipalities rather than the State as it may save time and have a greater chance of success.
I also spoke with Jewell about how communities feel contributing to fighting illegal guns – based on the idea that there may be some push back with regard to the second amendment and the NRA; “Individual communities will be able to make those decisions based on what their constituents feel…if you are just targeting illegally obtained weapons, then I don’t see there being major pushback; the second you cross the line of fighting legal gun ownership, then it will be much harder to get the backing you need.” The conversation I had with Jewell reminded me of the importance of marketing and explaining the program in a clear and concise way that strictly targets illegal guns.
Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:
For the critique of my proposal from a topic coordinator, I spoke with Noah Bloom. Noah and I discussed my three potential solutions and how they could best be implemented. Noah encouraged me to look at the solutions through the lens of my persona. Noah stressed the importance to me that the solution should directly impact students like the one described in my POV.
With Noah’s advice on finding a solution that will best support the Michigan student community, I have decided to move forward with the gun buy back solution. Noah helped me flesh out the idea and we discussed how the buyback may be a great way to not only keep guns off the streets but could be a unique way to create conversation in communities about illegal gun violence. Noah gave me the idea that students could work as volunteers setting up and advertising the buy back as a way to directly work with students.
Noah also pointed me to research some of the successful buyback programs that have been implemented across the US to help gain some insight on how they may work in Michigan. With Noah’s advice on keeping the student in mind while selecting a solution, I was able to finalize a solution and expand my solution to involve students through advertising and educating the community through student volunteers.
I look forward to working with Noah the rest of the semester as a guide to help me write and present my proposal.
Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit. In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.
I selected my topic of fighting illegal gun violence due to my background with PWR Detroit and the Caliber Foundation. PWR Detroit, was my first business which used shell casings from crime scenes in Detroit, melted them down, and transformed them into bracelets. With every bracelet sold, we purchased a gun off the streets of Detroit. A year into my business, we partnered with the Caliber Foundation to help fund their buyback programs. Working with the foundation opened my eyes to the alarming effect that illegal guns can have on a community. As I became more and more involved with the Caliber Foundation, my interest in fighting illegal gun violence also grew. I have always been interested in expanding the mission of PWR and the Caliber Foundation so this proposal gave me the perfect platform to expand the efforts to involve the State of Michigan.
I also decided to focus the proposal on one of Michigan’s largest cities – Detroit. My choice to focus on Detroit stemmed from reading the FBI list of Most Dangerous Cities in the United States and saw that Detroit has consistently been ranked as extremely dangerous due to the rampant gun violence.
To begin my proposal, I first looked to define what an ‘illegal gun’ is. I used the working definition from Legal Match. They state that illegal guns can fall into two categories: illegally obtained weapons, and guns that cannot be possessed by citizens – these include, unregistered firearms, firearms with serial number removed, stolen or illegally obtained firearms, automatic weapons or machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, and firearms with silencers. This definition helped shaped my research to ensure I do not focus on legal guns.
Through reading comments on my potential solutions on the Caucus page, I was able to quickly select the buyback solution as my best option. The feedback I received on feasibility overwhelmingly showed the most potential with this solution. Once I had my solution, I was able to cater my research to this solution.
With the mass media attention on how dangerous Detroit is, my research started by reading looking at the Detroit Crime Map that Detroit Police Department has on their main website. I was alarmed at the number of crimes that involved a firearm. Through this view, I tried to look into whether the guns involved in the crimes were legally obtained or fell into the illegal gun category. I was unable to find the ‘status’ of the guns from the police reports so I was forced to expand my research to consultations and internet searches.
Due to the nature of illegal gun violence, there is little concrete information on the true size of the epidemic so I relied heavily on my consultations. I focused my consultations on people who come from different walks of life and would be able to guide my research in different areas. I looked for people who have background with buybacks, community members, and finally someone from the local government. With these three unique perspectives I was able to gain well rounded knowledge on the pros and cons of buyback programs and how they would impact the city.
From my consultations and the limited pieces of information I found on websites, I crafted my proposal with as many stakeholders in mind as possible – the state, the cities, the residents, the local business and the people who own the illegal weapons. From this view, I was able to craft the solution to be mutually beneficial to all parties.
The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.Preambulatory clauses
WHEREAS.... Michigan inner cities have become flooded with illegal guns as the evidence shows.
WHEREAS.... Guns were used defensively 29 times in Michigan to stop a crime in 2017- A total of 11 people were killed and 21 injured during those incidents
WHEREAS.... There were 1,223 gun deaths in Michigan in 2016, which is the highest since 1999
WHEREAS.... Four in 10 American adults own a gun, and another 11% live with someone who does– of this 2 in 10 Detroiters live with an unregistered firearm
WHEREAS.... 'Protection' is the biggest reason to own an unregistered/illegal firearmin Detroit
WHEREAS.... 93% of violent crimes in Detroit involved an illegally obtained weapon
WHEREAS.... The Caliber Foundation has hosted buybacks in Detroit and they have been able to purchase more than 500 guns off the streeets of Detroit, giving the State an opportunity to endorse the buybacks to help promote the event with no cost to the State.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED....
1. Implement a ‘No Questions Asked’ Buy Back Program Endorsement Program lead by the Michigan Attorney General for areas impacted by illegal gun violence - This endorsement will help private buybacks grow their fundraisisng by having a Michigan seal of approval.
2. Initiate the program in Detroit - as Detroit is the 'most measurable' because they currently have the most information availbale about illegal gun violence - as they have the highest need for buyback programs to remove guns from the streets
3. Advertise the event, targeting parents, through schools, churches, and other community organizations
4. When a participant attends a buyback, they will be given a gift card or cash in trade for their gun - determined by the public buyback organizers
5. Post the buyback, destroy all the guns and recycle the metals to help fund the buyback
6. As the program expands, give business the opportunity to sponsor buybacks as a way to help offset the costsCounter-arguments:
What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?
1. This goes against the second amendment – We should not create any gun control
2. The NRA is too powerful and you do not want to create a program that would attract their attention.
3. The problem with guns is not illegal gun ownership and the real issue lies with guns in generalCosts and funding:
To implement the gun buyback programs, there are two main costs. The two categories of costs include the actual fee that will be paid to the gun owner and the second cost would be the general operations costs that would mainly be comprised of advertising for the buybacks. The costs of buying back a gun is $50 per piece – this is based on past successful gun buyback programs that have been implemented around the US.
To initiate the program, the funding would should come from the State of Michigan in the form of a grant. As the program grows, I see removing the funding from the state and working with nonprofits to fundraise to make the program self-funding through donors. The donors in the future could be local businesses, individuals or corporations who are committed to improving the safety of their community. Donating to the buyback is attractive to donors because they will be able to benefit from a tax write off.
With the success of the program being directly related to how many guns are able to b purchased off the streets, fundraising and advertising will be a major area of operation. To best fundraise for future buybacks, some funds will have to be used to support mailers, advertisements, and other forms of public information mediums.
These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.