By DREW HOWARD
Congressman Mike Bishop found himself on the defense as he fielded questions on gun control, NRA campaign endorsements and mental health in a town hall meeting at the Older Persons’ Commission on Tuesday, February 20.
While the town hall was open to any and all topics, residents continued to steer the conversation back to gun control and the recent Parkland massacre that left 17 dead.
The second resident to address Bishop asked what he would to prevent future shootings. “My job is to make sure I do whatever I can in Congress to make sure our schools are safe, first and foremost,” Bishop said. “I want to make sure they [schools] have the resources necessary to make their schools safe and their campuses safe.”
Bishop also argued that mental illness is partly to blame for the Parkland shooting. “The second goal is to make sure there are resources for what I think is the elephant in the room, and that’s mental illness,” he said. “This is a three dimensional problem – there’s a lot of issues involved in gun violence. I just want you to know that there are lots of opportunities, and there’s not one solution.”
Attendees were visibly upset over Bishop’s mental health comment, prompting even more questions about what he’ll do to end gun violence.
“I’d like to ask what you specifically plan to do,” a student from the International Academy in Bloomfield Hills asked. “Because so far you’ve made promises that you’re going to do something but you haven’t actually said what you’re going to do.”
Bishop went into specifics, suggesting that schools should have gates allowing only students and authorized personnel to enter. He also argued that schools should have one point of entrance with metal detectors.
Another resident addressed Bishop’s ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA). “According to campaign finance stuff I’ve seen, the NRA has contributed to your campaign over $9,000,” the resident said. “Will you donate that money, either give it back to the NRA or give it to mental health? And will you make a commitment to not accept money from the NRA?”
“I’m not going to demonize any group. I think it’s laudable for any group to have their focus on defending the constitution. I don’t think any one group encourages death or violence or this kind of tragedy, and if they did I would distance myself from any group like that.”
The final question came from a retired high school teacher. She asked Bishop why he supports guns in the classroom as a safety measure. “From my experience, the last thing in the world I want in my classroom is a gun,” she said. “If this makes things safer, why don’t you have them in your classroom? Why aren’t we allowing concealed carry into Congress and the courthouses? Legislators are putting out laws for us that they don’t follow themselves.”
Bishop didn’t answer the question, and instead reinforced his stance that schools need an armed deputy or law enforcement officer who is present “all day.” He didn’t deny his support to put guns in the classroom. “I think there has to be a lot of discussion before we go further on the subject of arming anyone in our schools,” he said.
The town hall ended after 45 minutes with residents quick to ask when Bishop would host another one. He was unable to provide a specific date, but assured folks he would continue hosting conversations.