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West Bloomfield

Two county commissioners support gun safety study

January 25, 2013

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West Bloomfield Police Chief Mike Patton, left, stands near Oakland County commissioners Bill Dwyer and Marcia Gershenson at a Jan. 22 press conference on gun violence and background checks.

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Two members of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners have their sights set on learning more about gun background checks and related issues.

On Jan. 22, Democrat Marcia Gershenson and Republican Bill Dwyer announced their desire to form an Oakland County study group that could search for solutions to gun violence and inefficiencies in background checks.

The officials took questions at a press conference held at the West Bloomfield Police Department, which suffered the loss of Sgt. Patrick O’Rourke in September, due to gunfire.

Gershenson and Dwyer said the recent mass murders in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., convinced them that something must be done in a bipartisan fashion.

“There are a number of loopholes that must be addressed,” Dwyer said.

Currently, Michiganders may be barred from owning a weapon if, among other things, they are convicted felons or if they have been declared insane.

The officials said they hope to close loopholes among the different databases that are used in gun background checks. They said gaps in the systems sometimes prevent crucial information on things like mental health from coming to light.

Gershenson, who represents District 13, said she is a supporter of the Second Amendment for responsible gun owners. But she said county officials need to study what gun registration looks like in Oakland County and in the state.

“There is a long road ahead of us, as a country, to address the increase of violent crimes that have multiple reasons and causes and have very difficult fixes,” she said. “We need to do everything we can to prevent easy access to instruments of mass violence.”

Dwyer, who represents District 14, said he has more than 48 years of law enforcement experience and added that there are no easy solutions. About 300 million guns exist in America, he said.

Dwyer also pointed to some video games as enablers of violence, though he said the issue requires more study.

While presenting a bipartisan effort, the two commissioners disagreed on whether an assault weapons ban should be imposed. Dwyer opposed it, explaining that a former ban didn’t stop shootings like the one at Columbine High School and that assault weapons are not the only weapons used in crime. Gershenson said a ban should be investigated.

If the Board of Commissioners approves the study group, officials say it would include representatives from law enforcement, local politics, the mental health industry and the community.

According to a copy of the resolution for the proposal, the panel would report its findings and recommendations to county officials in April, and a resolution could be sent to lawmakers in Lansing.

Neither Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard nor the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office could be reached for comment by press time.

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