Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a law aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of abusers in Kalamazoo, 24 years after the tragic death of 19-year-old Maggie Wardle at the hands of an ex-boyfriend.
“I could jump for joy,” Maggie’s mother, Martha Omilian, told the Advance after Whitmer signed a series of bills that extend gun restrictions to those convicted of domestic violence-related crimes, from just felons to misdemeanors.
“If one person…maybe someone won’t have to go through this,” Martha said. “I’m going to stick with this for the rest of my life. It’s the last thing I think about at night and the first thing I think about in the morning.
On October 18, 1999, Wardle was murdered in her Kalamazoo College dormitory by her ex-boyfriend, who had previously been emotionally abusive towards her.
Rick Omilian, Wardle’s father-in-law, recalled during the bill signing the outpouring of support that Kalamazoo College and the host of the bill signing, YWCA Kalamazoo, have given them over the years. years.
“We know this room,” Omilian said, looking out at the crowd of YWCA workers, gun control advocates and lawmakers who supported the signed bills, as well as other bills on gun control laws passed this year.
Current law prohibits people convicted of crimes related to domestic violence offenses from possessing, carrying, or distributing firearms for three years after the end of their sentence. The ban can extend up to five years for “specified crimes,” such as those involving threats or the use of physical force.
Senate Bill 471, Senate Bill 528, and House Bill 4945 prohibit people convicted of domestic violence crimes from possessing, carrying, or distributing firearms for eight years. fire. The legislation also expands domestic violence offenses that advocates said during the legislative process would more clearly summarize what domestic violence can entail.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), said domestic violence tends to get worse, so early intervention is essential.
“We know that domestic violence can escalate. What might be a more minor incident the first or second time, can become more violent and dangerous later.
And the current impacts of domestic violence crimes aren’t enough to keep survivors safe, Heath Lowry, public policy specialist for the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, said at a hearing legislative in September on some of the bills, adding that short prison stays are not necessary. This does not have the same effect as removing weapons.
Chang added that about half of all women murdered in the United States are murdered by a current or former intimate partner and that women are five times more likely to be murdered by an abusive partner when they have access to firearms only when they do not have them.
Many domestic violence survivors and their families came to the Capitol to ask lawmakers to pass this legislation, as well as other measures to keep survivors safe. Angela Ferrell-Zabala, executive director of Moms Demand Action, released a statement Monday applauding those who devoted time to passing this legislation.
“Governor Whitmer and Michigan lawmakers have refused to sit idly by while we await the Supreme Court’s decision in Rahimi’s case – an outcome that could be a death sentence,” Ferrell-Zabala said. “Instead, they are actively showing up for Michigan women and families. I hope other states will follow Michigan’s lead in continuing to advocate for common-sense gun safety laws.
Many of those who spoke at the bill signing echoed that these bills are “common sense bills” based on the real threat that domestic violence poses to the lives of ‘a person. Whitmer said the bills would save lives.
“These bills are based on a simple idea. If you have been found guilty in court of violently assaulting your partner, you should not be able to access a deadly weapon that you can use to further threaten to harm or kill them, it’s just common sense ” Whitmer said.
And Wardle would be proud to see this day come, Martha Omilian said after the signing.
“She was a strong person, very strong, despite what happened to her,” Martha said of her daughter. “Some people might think, ‘So how did she let (her ex-boyfriend) get away with this?’ » But… she had compassion and empathy for others. …It can happen to anyone…and there is still much to be done. … This is just the beginning.
Originally published by Michigan Advance. It is republished with permission.
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