Sending thoughts and prayers — and research, research, research

Everything is broken

As a student reporter at The State News at Michigan State (in the previous century, yikes), I lived in a constant state of roiling self-doubt and fear of spelling someone’s name wrong. I tended to hang in the back of the newsroom with the entertainment writers and the sports dudes. I wrote goofy features about students “adopting” grandparents and a guy who analyzed handwriting. My closest relationship to the news department was pitching a story about a snake that escaped in the house of some guys I knew in high school.

So walking into work on an eerie and melancholy morning two days after a mass shooting at my alma mater, I gasped when I saw The Michigan Daily and its dramatic front page. The tears really spilled when I looked below the fold. The seemingly hand-drawn graphics of MSU’s Beaumont Tower, Sparty, and other icons touched my cynical heart. And then this:

Michigan Daily tribute to Spartans at the State News.

I think it was the phrase “our colleagues at The State News” that got me. “Colleagues.” These are student journalists. They are seeking to learn a craft, go to class, figure out who they are on this planet. They should be staying up all night in that newsroom, not locked away with a computer in their dorm. Their doors should be open and their music should be blaring. They should be thinking about nothing more than scooping The State News, checking their facts, and spelling everyone’s name correctly. And yet, here they are, writing about their “colleagues” — some of whom are still teenagers — who are reeling from a horrific loss to their community.

How are we supposed to function in a society like this?

U-M’s Firearm Injury Prevention Institute

Sparty in the Michigan Daily. Hand-drawn graphic of white art on green background.

Design by Abby Schreck.

Debates about the Second Amendment rage on, families bury their children, and survivors set up go-fund-me accounts to offset lifelong medical expenses. Meanwhile, the rest of us strive to manage the never-ending rage and abject sadness coursing through our veins. Thankfully, U-M offers a lifeline in its Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention. The institute “harnesses the research might of the University of Michigan, the nation’s largest public research university, to address the root causes of, and potential solutions for, the most important issues surrounding firearm violence.”

Before you troll me with your gun-toting bravado, please note, this is not the Institute to Take Away Your Firearms.

Researchers study firearm injury prevention, and from a wide array of disciplines (i.e., public health, criminology, medicine, sociology, psychology, social work, nursing, engineering, economics, public policy, education, etc.). They focus on suicide, youth violence, community violence, unintentional injury, intimate partner violence, school shootings, mass shootings, technology and firearms, and police violence. They are looking at primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention, and are particularly interested in research addressing existing inequalities, disparities, and inequities related to firearm injury.

Save your social media platitudes

In light of recent events, the institute is sharing resources to support the community:

The institute also is working to provide evidence-based solutions to address firearm violence and school shootings. Below is a list of select resources:

Armed with data

If we have to live in a world that looks increasingly like RoboCop, where toddlers toy with their parents’ handguns and elementary school children shoot their teachers, we better get our act together. This constant cocktail of dread and fear about being mowed down in a grocery store or a student union smacks of a heinous social hangover.

Thankfully Michigan is maximizing its “research might” to help us survive our collective madness. There’s no apparent cure, but at least we’ve got options. And as we seek to thrive in this nation where firearms outnumber citizens, I am heartened by the practical and common-sense approach Michigan is taking. Thoughts and prayers are good. But knowledge, as we all know, is power.
Listen to the song “Everything is Broken” by Bob Dylan.


  1. Jim Rodman - 1988

    While some mass shootings, we seemingly never figure out (Las Vegas? Hello?), the shooting at Michigan State could and should have been prevented. The fault lies squarely on Carol Seimon, Ingham County Prosecutor. Had Seimon done her job and protected this guy for his felony gun charges years earlier, he would not have been able to purchase the guns in the first place. Decades ago, virtually every state enacted laws that made use of firearms in criminal acts automatic felonies, but these Left leaning prosecutors have stopped holding criminals accountable. The is no sense talking further legislation until the laws currently on the books are enforced.


    • M Sanborn - 2002

      ^^^ This is what is going around in the rightwing media, “it’s the lefty prosecutor’s fault, so we shouldn’t pass more gun safety laws”

      BS. The prosecutor didn’t pursue a felony conviction not because she’s “left leaning” but because there were serious questions about the constitutionality of the search. So, instead of taking the risk of going to trial and getting the evidence thrown out (which would have led to an acquittal), the prosecutor offers a plea, which results in a conviction and McRae’s pistol being confiscated.


  2. Victoria Roy (Kurnat) - 1985

    I was a freshman, living at Bursley Hall , in 1981 when a student set off the fire alarm and then open fired into the hallway as sleepy students tried to exit the building. Two were killed. At the time there was no instant news access. The internet was still a generation away. The University opened up a phone line next to the front desk and encouraged us to call our parents — long distance even — to let them know we were ok. It made the evening news. The cafeteria, where hundreds of students ate, was dead silent. With the exception of the students directly involved, most of us were allowed back into our rooms by nightfall and we went to class and on with our lives the next day. Certainly the friends and families of the murdered students were gravely impacted and our hearts were aching for them. But, there was no constant drum beat of in-your-face news coverage. In today’s world, I have to wonder how the sensationalizing by the media of current shootings impacts us. It certainly makes us more anxious for our safety, afraid, and angry. It makes it hard for us to go “back to class and on with our lives.” It does not seem to improve or reduce the occurrence or severity of these shootings. While many contributing factors have changed since 1981, particularly the easy access to weapons of war, from my perspective the pervasive, immediate and intrusive media coverage is also to blame. We do need research to understand the media’s impacts on our individual and collective psyche. But the “might of the University’s research” will not be enough unless we actively engage the media industry and have their buy-in. A seismic change, that will ripple through our gun-toting, self-righteous culture is needed. Maybe collectively the media has the might strong enough to start the quake?


  3. John Milanovich - 1991, 2001

    It sounds highly elitist to believe and promote the idea that U-M will solve this problem, at least through “science.” On the contrary, history suggests they could make it worse.

    The amount of Confirmation Bias with this Institute (IFIP) appears quite high, while those participating in the research seem to have little idea of this process in their own work, which is not only wasteful but dangerous. For example, highlighting some research (i.e., 90% of youth homicides, the 3rd leading cause of death in adolescents, is from firearm violence) while omitting or minimizing other reseach (i.e., >85% of adolescents who murder another human being do not have a father-figure in the household), not only ends up wasting everyone’s time and tax payor dollars in terms of coming up with a solution that gets to the root cause, but actively dismisses a potential root cause to all sorts of adolescent problems seen today. But, I bet U-M will not go the “family structure” route because it is contrary to other policies being developed – ergo Confirmation Bias and unreliability in conclusions.

    On top of that, in this blog post prayer is minimized. Here’s a fun fact to chew on, and it only cost about 5 cents of electricity to find – since prayer life, worship of God, and traditional family structures have been greatly reduced in our country gun violence has skyrocketed. Period.

    Sorry, I believe some of the specific endeavors of IFIP could be helpful, such as investigating how existing laws for protection are not working due to plea deals, but just maybe, dissing God and trying to raise children outside of a traditional structure has something (major) to do with all of the violence too. But again, those big white elephants in the room will not be highlighted by IFIP as it does not fit with U-M’s modern ideologies and, as a result, lead us closer to “needing” an alternative solution, such as full-on Robocop 2025 in our state.

    In my opinion, U-M’s ways have helped to get us in this mess, and now we’re supposed to believe or have faith they can get us out of it using those very same hermetics?

    John Milanovich, Ph.D.


    • Chris Campbell - Rackham '72; Law '75

      “[S]ince prayer life, worship of God, and traditional family structures have been greatly reduced in our country gun violence has skyrocketed. Period. ”

      Let us remember that correlation is not causation, and that post hoc ergo propter hoc is a logical fallacy.


  4. Chris Campbell - Rackham '72; Law '75

    The piece says this: “I think it was the phrase ‘our colleagues at The State News’ that got me. ‘Colleagues.’ These are student journalists. They are seeking to learn a craft, go to class, figure out who they are on this planet.”

    Aren’t we lucky that some bright kids have joined the fraternity of journalists? My theory is that the important people in a democracy are the teachers and the journalists. The rest of us are merely helpful. And you, Ms. Holdship, have the great good fortune to be surrounded by both.


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