Michigan State University has been around for over a hundred years and history has been made on campus, including a massive student protest march on the state Capitol, with over 10,000 demanding an end to the Vietnam War.
Presidents and other national officials have spoken on campus, and, in the sports arena, the history is noteworthy, including that infamous 10-10 tie between Notre Dame and the Spartans. Coach Duffy Daugherty said it was like kissing your sister.
And then history was made on Feb. 13. Three students dead. Five students badly injured. And one mass shooter dead.
It was the not the kind of week Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was anticipating. In fact, her Monday began on a joyous note for the administration as she stood with the leaders of Ford and other local officials to announce a $3.5 billion electric vehicle battery plant would land in Marshall.
It was quite a get for the governor, who last year was blindsided by the same carmaker, which didn’t even bother to consider Michigan for two other battery facilities that went to Kentucky and Tennessee, instead.
If there were any hard feelings from that, they were long forgotten with the company’s decision to create 2,500 jobs in the state.
But the euphoria of that moment was wiped out in an instant some five hours later, when the governor heard, along with all of Spartan nation, “active shooter on the campus.”
A lone gunman stalked the campus from one lecture hall to the union, leaving behind a trail of dead and wounded bodies, and then he was off into the dark winter’s night, at which point a massive manhunt was contemplated. But where to look?
As law enforcement pondered its move, and not knowing where to start, technology came to the rescue. A photo of the masked suspect was captured on a newly installed campus video camera system.
It was posted with fingers crossed that doing so would result in a tip.
And, wonder of wonders, 17 minutes later, that’s exactly what happened. A Lansing woman saw the pic on her PC and turned around and looked out her front room picture window and guess who was walking by.
“That’s him!” she shouted to her husband. And, while she thought afterwards that she was in danger, with the shooter in her front yard, she called the cops and, within minutes, they confronted him and he ended the exchange with his own fatal bullet.
“We can’t keep living like this. Our children are afraid to go to school,” Whitmer, the mother of two college daughters turned governor, told the media the morning after the tragic night.
“We must act and we will,” she promised, just as she had done 19 days earlier in her State of the State message that included the line “the time for only thoughts and prayers is over.”
Which brings us to the Michigan Legislature, which, under the previous Republican control of the state House and state Senate, refused to hold a hearing on gun safety measures. The House Republican leadership was content to call for more school safety officers, more mental health services for students, and a school safety commission, but not a whimper about safe gun storage or stronger background checks or even ways to keep guns out of the hands of those who might misuse them.
A majority of you want that.
Now, with the Democrats calling the shots, a dozen gun control measures went in the hopper last week, and you can rest assured there will be hearings and there will be votes.
But the outcome of that remains unclear.
It looks like some Republicans are prepared to buck the National Rifle Association, which opposes anything that even smells like a scheme to take guns away from those who own them. The governor, et. al., counter they are not interested in that. Period.
Doesn’t matter with the NRA.
So, while campus history was made last week that everyone would rather forget, perhaps, the gun safety backers hope, a bookend piece of new history will go with that. They also hope lawmakers say yes to legislation to hopefully reduce gun violence, not only eight miles south of the state Capitol on the banks of the Red Cedar River, but statewide, as well.