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Siemon receives backlash from elected officials about policy change on felony firearm charge

Posted at 7:10 PM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-23 19:10:30-04

LANSING, Mich. — Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon changed her office's policy on pursuing a charge called felony firearm last month.

She said it was meant as a way to fix racial disparities, but, now, Siemon is getting backlash from 22 elected officials in the county.

Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wrigglesworth is pushing for Siemon to reconsider the change, making his case to local elected officials and collecting signatures

“My idea was to meet with the 23 elected officials in the county, 16 township supervisors, five elected mayors and two village presidents to get their take on this policy,” Wrigglesworth said. “I had no way intended for this to mean that thy’re speaking on behalf of their boards or every resident that lives in the township, city or village. It was just a way for me to gauge how the community felt about this.”

Michigan created the felony firearm charge in the 1970s amid a rise in gun violence. It's essentially a penalty for carrying a gun while committing another crime, whether you use the gun or not, and carries a two-year sentence.

In August, Siemon announced that her office will no longer charge people with felony firearm if they don't actually use a gun while committing a crime. Siemon said she’s doing it to break down racial disparities in law enforcement.

In 2020, the prosecutor’s office received 205 felony firearm charges and 80 percent of those charged were Black.

“She put in her press release that this is a race equity issue, not a gun violence issue,” Wrigglesworth said. “Well, we also know in this county that Black and brown people are over represented on this victim side of gun violence. We’ve had five homicides involving guns in Ingham County since her policy went into effect on Aug. 11. Four out of five of the victims were Black and brown.”

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor was one of the 22 elected officials who signed the document.

“I have had families come to me and say they’re upset with this change because their loved one has been shot and killed and the victims were predominantly Black and brown people,” Schor said.

East Lansing Mayor Jessy Gregg was one of two elected officials who opted out of signing the document. Williamstown Township Supervisor Wanda Bloomquist was the other.

Gregg said signing it would get in the way of her mission to represent and support all residents in East Lansing.

“This is a change a that we know would make a difference and I think we owe it to our community to try it,” Gregg said.

Wrigglesworth has given the document to Siemon to review, but as of right now, nothing has changed.

“I ran into her last week and she said she’s not going to apologize for what she’s doing and this is only the beginning, and I said I’m not going to apologize for trying to keep the residents of Ingham County safe,” Wrigglesworth said.

Siemon did not agree to an interview. However, she did say her office is working to set up another educational session to go over racial disparity data with officials.