Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has called for action against gun violence in the United States after a gunman killed three students and injured five others at Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing.
Authorities identified the suspect on Tuesday as 43-year-old Anthony Dwayne McRae, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after carrying out the shooting at two different university sites the previous night.
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Local law enforcement officials said they have “no idea” what the motive was, but they confirmed McRae did not have any formal affiliation with the university. He was not a student or faculty member.
Meanwhile, officials in Ewing Township, New Jersey — hundreds of miles away from MSU — said McRae was found with a “note in his pocket that indicated a threat to Ewing Public Schools”. Police in the New Jersey town added that the suspected gunman had ties to the local community and a “history of mental health issues”.
The shooting renewed calls for gun reform.
“We cannot keep living like this,” Whitmer told reporters on Tuesday.
“Our children are scared to go to school. People feel unsafe in their houses of worship or local stores. Too many of us scan rooms for exits when we enter that place. And many of us have gone through the grim exercise of figuring out who our last call would be to.”
The governor said she spoke with President Joe Biden, who offered “his support and the thoughts of an entire nation” to help the MSU community.
Last week during his State of the Union address, Biden reiterated his call for a ban on assault weapons, a proposal that would need to pass a divided Congress, with Republicans in control of the House of Representatives and Democrats forming a majority in the Senate.
Biden paid tribute to the victims on Tuesday, urging US lawmakers once again to address gun violence.
“Congress must do something and enact common-sense gun law reforms, including requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, closing loopholes in our background check system, requiring safe storage of guns, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets,” the president said in a statement.
Demands for stricter gun laws in the US typically grow louder after mass shootings. But those efforts often face political gridlock and opposition from conservatives who resist enacting restrictions on owning and carrying weapons.
The Second Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees the right to “keep and bear arms”.
The suspect in East Lansing was on the loose for several hours on Monday, sparking fear of more violence on campus. Authorities said a tip to the police led them to locate McRae.
Students and residents near the university were asked to “shelter in place” during the manhunt.
Whitmer noted that Tuesday marked the fifth anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman killed 17 people.
Michigan also endured a deadly high school mass shooting in Oxford, Oakland County — about an hour away from Michigan State University’s campus — in 2021.
In her remarks on Tuesday, Whitmer called mass shootings a “uniquely American” problem. “The truth is words are not good enough. We must act and we will,” the Michigan governor said.
Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin also said she was “filled with rage” to witness another school shooting in Michigan.
“You either care about protecting kids or you don’t,” Slotkin said. “You either care about having an open honest conversation about what is going on in our society or you don’t. But please don’t tell me you care about the safety of children if you’re not willing to have a conversation about keeping them safe.”
Michigan State University, located near the state capital, Lansing, and about 145km (90 miles) to the northwest of Detroit, is the alma mater of numerous top athletes, politicians and businesspeople.
“Shooting after shooting and still colleagues have excuses after excuses resulting in no meaningful action,” Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
“The trauma and heartache that a whole community like MSU/East Lansing is experiencing right now should not become the norm. We can’t let it.”