Southfield gun violence forum features regional leaders

Audience members call for metal detectors in schools, better mental health care

By: Kathryn Pentiuk | Southfield Sun | Published August 8, 2023

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SOUTHFIELD — The city of Southfield welcomed the community to join a conversation of gun violence in southeast Michigan at the Southfield Pavilion July 31.

“This is about saving lives. This is about prevention, not about politics,” Southfield Police Chief Elvin Barren stated as he applauded Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signing of Senate Bills 79, 80, 81 and 82 and House Bills 4138 and 4142 back in April. The legislation package requires universal background checks for all firearm purchases, as well as safe storage requirements. Barren said that when these laws go into effect next spring, they will aid in law enforcement’s efforts to help save lives and prevent violent gun attacks.

The event was in partnership with Shield’s Restaurant Bar Pizzeria, Sam’s Club, Meijer, Kroger, Captain Jay’s Fish & Chicken and Moms Demand Action and was moderated by former Channel 7 News investigative reporter Ronnie Dahl. Speakers included Southfield Police Chief Elvin Barren, Oak Park Police Director Steve Cooper, Farmington Hills Police Chief Jeff King, Wayne County Sheriff Raphael Washington and Detroit Police Chief James White.

King said that though law enforcement plays a vital role in addressing gun violence, it’s not the sole answer, which is why input from the community is necessary to help implement law programs.

“Michigan in the last decade had about an 11% increase in gun deaths related with either mental health issues or gun violence,” King said. “Annually, we have about 1,200 gun-related fatalities in our great state, and over 3,500 people are injured annually. We had the 15th-highest rate of gun violence in the United States in 2021. This has gotta stop.”

The public forum allowed the community to provide suggestions and ask law enforcement questions. Some audience recommendations included the use of metal detectors in schools, more accessible mental health care, assault weapon bans, more gun buyback opportunities and overall stricter gun laws in the state.

Barren said that he initially doubted the gun buyback program because he thought criminals would not turn in their guns. However, his mindset shifted when it occurred to him that guns can often end up in the hands of children. Barren now advocates for more communities hosting gun buyback events.

“We have to convince other law enforcement agencies that think like I once thought and that this is something that could be beneficial.”

Last fall, Auburn Hills, Ferndale, Royal Oak and Southfield hosted gun buyback events, with the $45,000 funded by the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, and saw over 350 guns turned in.

Ann Anderson, a volunteer for the grassroots anti-gun violence group Moms Demand Action, took to the stage to provide a presentation of data. Moms Demand Action is a national organization that fights for public safety measures to protect people from gun violence in the United States.

“The United States gun homicide rate is 26 times higher than that of other high-income countries. On average, 120 Americans are killed, and twice that number are injured by guns every day,” Anderson stressed. “Gun violence is a multifaceted problem. There are a lot of things that make up that balance. One of the key ones is gun suicide. On average, over the last several years, 57% of the gun deaths in this country are actually suicides; 40% are homicides. Mass shootings and school shootings make up less than 1% of the gun violence incidents that happen in this country.”

According to Anderson’s data, gun violence is now the leading cause of death for American children and adolescents, with 4.6 million children in the U.S. living in homes with guns that are loaded and unlocked. Due to this, almost 350 children under the age of 18 unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else annually. Anderson also addressed domestic gun violence and racial disparities in regard to gun-related deaths and injuries, stating that each month in the U.S., around 70 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner. Additionally, it is estimated that 30 Black people are killed each day by gun violence and are 12 times more likely to die by gun homicide.

Wayne County Sheriff Raphael Washington expressed the need for legislation to address mental health due to the lack of mental health institutions. “We go through crisis intervention training through the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network to make sure that our officers are getting the proper training, when they’re approaching or when they come into contact with those who are dealing with mental health issues. Officers need to understand that they are dealing with a condition, not the person.”

Washington also provided tips on safe gun storage and responsible gun ownership. He emphasized the importance of ensuring concealed pistol license owners store their weapons safely and securely, such as in a safe with a gun lock, and he also advised all gun owners to attend training from a reputable CPL instructor to learn about all the components of responsible gun ownership.

To learn more about Oakland County’s anti-gun violence efforts and upcoming events, visit and search “Gun Violence.” For more information on the Michigan Moms Demand Action chapter, visit