Rochester City Council, police highlight importance of gun safety

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published June 11, 2022

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ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — The Rochester City Council recently proclaimed June 3, 2022, as Gun Violence Awareness Day.

In one line of the proclamation, the council said it “renewed its … pledge to do all we can to keep firearms out of the wrong hands, and encourage responsible gun ownership to help keep our children safe.”

Council member Amanda Harrison said the timing of the proclamation — which passed during the May 23 council meeting with a 5-1 vote — felt “sadly appropriate.”

“I just wanted to take a moment to say that our hearts are going out to the people in the city of Buffalo — I think that shooting is on top of mind for all of us right now, and we’re still mourning the people in Oxford and that tragedy,” she said. “I hate that we have to do this, but it’s very important that we do it. I continue to think about the victims of these tragedies during this time.”

According to the proclamation, every day, more than 100 Americans are killed by gun violence, alongside more than 230 who are shot and wounded, and on average there are more than 13,000 gun homicides every year. The proclamation goes on to say Michigan has the 31st highest rate of gun deaths in the U.S. with 1,212 gun deaths every year and a rate of 12.1 deaths per 100,000 people.

Rochester City Councilwoman Ann Peterson was the lone dissenter.

“In the past, I have never approved this,” she said. “Based on the information that is provided in here, it has never been checked with our own Police Department, so — as much as I do not like the gun violence that takes place — I do not want to sign a proclamation that does not have facts in it to suggest something other than what it is,” said Peterson.

Rochester City Councilman Mark Albrecht highlighted the fact that the Rochester Police Department is active in promoting gun safety.

“Any resident can pick up a gunlock free of charge. To those people who have guns, maintaining them in a safe environment, this would ensure that that happens. I thank the chief for his proactive support of that,” he said.

Rochester Police Chief Steve Schettenhelm said the department provides free firearm safety kits to residents through a partnership with Project Child Safe, a nationwide firearms safety education program. The safety kits, which include a gunlock, are available at the front desk at the Police Department, located at 400 Sixth St.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office’s substations in Oakland Township, 4391 Collins Road​, and Rochester Hills, 750 Barclay Circle, also offer free gunlocks to residents.

The locks, Schettenhelm said, fit on most types of handguns, rifles and shotguns and will help prevent a child or any other unauthorized person from accessing a firearm in your home.

“We have them at our front desk, so anyone who would like to get one, there are no questions asked, they just ask for a gunlock. They are free, they are very easy to use, and we appreciate people making the effort for people to keep weapons in their home secure and safe,” he said.

Schettenhelm said it is important for people who own guns to use a gunlock or a gun safe.

“It’s also important to make sure that other people — particularly kids — don’t have access to or know where the keys are. Kids are very inquisitive, and they keep an eye on what mom and dad do … so we need to make sure that we take steps to not only secure them, but to make sure they are secure and that access is away from kids.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also declared June 3, 2022, as Gun Violence Awareness Day.

In the proclamation, Whitmer said “gun violence prevention is more important than ever as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate gun violence after more than a year of increased gun sales, increased calls to suicide and domestic violence hotlines, and an increase in city gun violence.”

The proclamation also said “Americans are 25 times more likely to die by gun homicide than people in other high-income countries,” and “as of late May, there have been nearly 700 deaths involving guns in Michigan.”

To help regulate handguns, Michigan has a number of rules — which state officials said may not apply to those having a concealed pistol license or those specifically exempt by law from a CPL and carrying their handgun in accordance with their license or exemption.

The regulations include:

• A person must be at least 18 years of age to hunt with (possess) a handgun.

• Handguns cannot be borrowed or loaned to another person other than provided for under the CPL.

• While in the field, handguns must be carried in plain view. Carrying a handgun in a holster in plain view is permitted.

• You may transport your registered handguns while en route to and from a hunting or target shooting area; however, handguns, including BB guns larger than .177 caliber and all pellet guns, must be unloaded and in a closed case designed for the storage of firearms and cannot be readily accessible to any occupant of the vehicle.

• It is a crime for certain felons to possess firearms, including rifles and shotguns, in Michigan.

• Nonresidents must have a CPL or a license to purchase, carry or transport issued by their home state in their possession in order to legally carry or transport a handgun in Michigan.

For more information regarding statewide handgun regulations or concealed weapons and firearms laws, contact your local police department. The Rochester Police Department can be reached at (248) 651-9621.