‘F—k Your Thoughts and Prayers’: Lawmakers Vow Action After 3 Killed in Mass Shooting at MSU

Democratic lawmakers in Michigan are vowing to deliver more than empty words to prevent another tragedy

Police vehicles outside Michigan State University following a mass shooting that killed three people and injured five on Feb. 13, 2023. (Anna Gustafson)

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Following a late Monday night shooting that killed three Michigan State University students and injured five more — mere miles from the state’s Capital of Lansing — Democratic lawmakers are vowing to deliver more than empty words in order to prevent another tragedy.

“F—k your thoughts and prayers,” reads the opening line of a late-night statement from House Majority Whip Ranjeev Puri (D-Canton).

“ … Thoughts and prayers without action and change are meaningless. Our office will continue to work tirelessly to pass common sense gun reform immediately. We will not stop until our students can attend school without fear, our communities can attend places of worship in peace, and our society is safe from senseless gun violence.”

State Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi) echoed Puri’s sentiments in a tweet, writing: “Policy & change. F—k your thoughts and prayers. I will not mince words.”

Democrats hold slim majorities in both the House and Senate. For the first time in about 40 years, they have a governing trifecta along with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and have vowed to take action on gun control measures that have long stalled in Michigan, such as safe storage and so-called “red flag” laws.

The gunman, Anthony McRae, who police said is not affiliated with the university, opened fire in MSU’s Berkey Hall at 8:18 p.m. Two students were killed there.

The suspect then moved next door to the MSU student union and opened fire again, where another student was killed.

MSU Police on Tuesday afternoon released the names of the three students killed: Brian Fraser, a sophomore from Grosse Pointe, Alexandria Verner, a junior from Clawson, and Arielle Anderson, a sophomore from Harper Woods.*

Five more injured victims — all students — are still in critical condition as of Tuesday morning, and four have required surgical intervention at Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital.

MSU classes are canceled until Monday, Feb. 20.

“I am angry that the safety and security of Michigan State University has been shattered by the uniquely American scourge of gun violence,” said House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit), who graduated from MSU.

“ … This is not a new phenomenon, and the people who elected us to help lead the state have no patience for inaction. … We have a choice. We can continue to debate the reasons for gun violence in America, or we can act. We cannot continue to do the same thing over and over again and hope for a different outcome,” Tate said.

There have so far been 67 mass shootings nationwide in the first 45 days of 2023 alone.

McRae, 43, was found by law enforcement roughly three hours after the shooting in East Lansing. After being confronted, police say he fatally shot himself.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaking after the MSU shooting, Feb. 14, 2023 (Screenshot)

Whitmer, an MSU alum who ordered U.S. and Michigan flags across the state to be lowered to half-staff until further notice on Tuesday, said in statements Tuesday morning that “the whole state of Michigan is wrapping its arms around the Spartan community today.”

“This is a uniquely American problem. Too many of us scan rooms for exits when we enter them. We plan who that last text or call would go to. We should not, we cannot, accept living like this,” Whitmer said.

She and U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) spoke at the MSU police briefing Tuesday morning. 

Law enforcement have so far not been able to find a motive for the shooting. According to the Detroit News, McRae was charged with multiple gun-related crimes in 2019.

Attorney General Dana Nessel has twin sons who attend MSU. She told CNN on Tuesday that one of them had just left one of the locations on campus shortly before shots were fired.

“As a parent, there is no greater fear than having your child tell you there is an active shooter at their school. I experienced this terror along with thousands of other MSU families last night,” Nessel said in a statement. “While my Spartan sons are safe, I am mourning the devastating loss and senseless violence.  The events at Michigan State University are a tragedy for the entire state of Michigan. My thoughts are with the victims, their families, friends, and loved ones.”

Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) also has a child who attends MSU.

“As the mom of an MSU student, I’m watching with dread as the events on and around campus are unfolding, so grateful and relieved my daughter is answering my texts and calls. My heart is breaking for the parents whose children have been injured or killed,” Brinks tweeted.

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten and David Hecker, AFT Michigan president, demanded that politicians take immediate action on gun control.

“The tragedy at Michigan State demands immediate action from our state and federal lawmakers,” Weingarten and Hecker said in a joint statement. “We cannot become numb and accept this violence as normal. We cannot allow politics to hold us back from acting. Too many lives have been taken because of gun violence and too little has been done. Our elected officials need to act and push through common sense gun violence prevention legislation that will save lives.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) and groups including Michigan Education Association (MEA), MSU Administrative Professionals Association, Campaign for a Safer Michigan, Detroit Action, Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA), Progress Michigan and more.

Mitchell Robinson, a Democratic member of the State Board of Education in Michigan, said that his two sons were on campus when the shooting began; one was in the Union and heard the shots. Robinson said both of his sons are safe.

President Joe Biden’s press secretary said on Twitter that Biden spoke with Whitmer Monday night following the shooting. Whitmer also confirmed that at the press conference Tuesday morning.

“Last night, I spoke to Governor Whitmer and directed the deployment of all necessary federal law enforcement to support local and state response efforts. I assured her that we would continue to provide the resources and support needed in the weeks ahead,” Biden said in a statement later on Tuesday.

” … As I said in my State of the Union address last week, Congress must do something and enact commonsense 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. Action is what we owe to those grieving today in Michigan and across America,” Biden continued.*

Republicans, now in the minority in the Michigan Legislature, also offered some words of support for victims but did not offer plans of action.

“Today, we are all Spartans,” reads the lone statement from the House GOP caucus on Twitter.

State Sens. Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Twp.) and Mark Huizenga (R-Walker) issued statements of their own, with Nesbitt writing that “parents and community leaders [are] desperately searching for ways to prevent these senseless attacks on the innocent.”

Some Republicans in Congress also responded.

U.S. Sen. Lisa McClain (R-Romeo) also tweeted that she is “heartbroken” and is praying for the MSU community and families affected.

“This culture of violence and murder must stop,” said U.S. Rep. John James (R-Farmington Hills).

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

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