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Detroit clergy leader on gun violence: ‘We are tired of burying children’


Detroit clergy leader on gun violence: ‘We are tired of burying children’

Mar 06, 2023 | 3:36 pm ET
By Ken Coleman
Detroit clergy leader on gun violence: ‘We are tired of burying children’
Tawanna Rankin | Ken Coleman

Tawanna Rankin continues to be rocked by senseless gun violence. Her 15-year-old daughter, Jada, was killed in 2016 in Detroit. 

“The system failed me,” she said Monday during an End Gun Violence Michigan and the Council of Baptist Pastors news conference held at Jordan Missionary Baptist Church on Detroit’s lower east side. Jada had been attending a birthday party when she was fatally shot in the abdomen. 

Rankin said that Jada, an honor student and Sterling Heights resident, was shot for “no reason at all.” She called on elected officials to provide more resources for conflict resolution counseling for adults and children and steeper penalties for those who commit gun violence. 

Her comments came as she, faith leaders and state lawmakers met to discuss the impact of gun violence in Michigan’s largest city. The effort comes after a Feb. 13 mass shooting at Michigan State University and concerns about continual incidents in Detroit. 

There, state lawmakers shared the current progress of the gun violence bills currently proposed in the Legislature. Clergy participants included the Rev. Richard White, Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit & Vicinity president; the Rev. Barry Randolph, Church of the Messiah pastor; Bishop Lennard McCray of Jordan Missionary Baptist Church; and Rabbi Asher Lopatin of the Jewish Community Relations Council. 

“We are tired of burying children,” said White. 

Randolph pointed out that his Detroit congregation has led an annual march and rally against gun violence for the last 15 years. 

Detroit clergy leader on gun violence: ‘We are tired of burying children’
House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) | Ken Coleman

Elected officials attending the meeting included House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) as well as State Reps. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia), Donovan McKinney (D-Detroit), and Stephanie Young (D-Detroit). Reps. Natalie Price (D-Berkley), Kimberly Edwards (D-Eastpointe) and Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) also attended.   

House and Senate lawmakers have introduced legislation that would mandate universal background checks for all guns (currently, only the purchase of handguns requires a background check in Michigan), require that gun owners safely store firearms that could be accessed by minors, and permit a court to order the temporary removal of firearms from someone who may be a danger to themselves or others. 

“We have been working through legislation at this point in Lansing…This is going to get done,” Tate said on Monday. 

Last week, End Gun Violence Michigan — a coalition of faith leaders, educators, firearm safety groups, and others working on gun reform across the state — hosted another press conference at which firearm owners advocated for gun reforms.

“I can’t think of any other issue in this state where the citizens of Michigan are more united,” Jon Gold, president of the Michigan chapter of Giffords Gun Owners for Safety and a National Rifle Association-trained firearms instructor, said at the press conference of the gun reform legislation moving its way through the state House and Senate. “This shouldn’t be a hard vote for anybody. This is an easy vote.”

House and Senate committees held their first hearings on the gun reform legislation last week and additional hearings are expected this week.

“I unconsciously step over the places in our school hallway where my classmates died. Is this how America wants our youth to grow up?” Oxford High School senior Dylan Morris asked as he sat before the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety Committee last week.