Two years after school shooting, Oxford community members reflect, talk gun violence prevention ⋆
The day before the second anniversary of the mass shooting at Oxford High School, survivors and their parents met for a roundtable discussion at Oakland University on how Michigan can prevent another school shooting.
Thursday will mark two years since the mass shooting at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021, that killed four students and injured seven others.
“This is something I’ll live with for the rest of my life and it’s something I don’t go a day without thinking about,” former Oxford student Maddie Johnson told the Advance.
Johnson has described the day of the shooting as chaotic, where she and her fellow classmates were forced to run for their lives as another student open fired on the school, killing her best friend, Madisyn Baldwin, aged 17.
Democratic candidate for the 10th Congressional District Emily Busch (left) listens to Oxford High School shooting survivor Maddie Johnson (right) speak at a gun violence prevention roundtable at Oakland University on Nov. 29, 2023. (Photo: Anna Liz Nichols)
“There’s always going to be a hole in my heart that can’t be filled,”Johnson said. “She loved everybody and everything. She was truly the most compassionate person I’ve ever met in my life. She just cared for people.”
The other victims killed were Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Justin Shilling, 17.
“I am lucky,” Emily Busch, the mother of an Oxford High School student and Democratic candidate for the 10th Congressional District seat held by U.S. Rep. John James (R-Sterling Heights), told the Advance. “People tell me, ‘I’m so sorry for your loss,’ but I’m lucky because my son is alive.”
Busch has described the day of the shooting in the past, saying she was able to communicate with her son over text where he downplayed the danger he was in until he and his classmates were able to flee out of a window after a teacher had hidden them.
“He told me not to worry, that it was just a drill, but he already knew it wasn’t a drill,” Busch said in a campaign video. “My 14-year-old was trying to protect me from the truth.”
But her son and other students deserve better, Busch said during the roundtable discussion with Jonathan Gold, president of the Michigan chapter of Giffords Gun Owners for Safety. He added that for too long, elected officials didn’t take gun violence seriously and so there weren’t adequate guardrails to prevent what happened in Oxford.
Jonathan Gold, president of the Michigan chapter of Giffords Gun Owners for Safety speaks at a gun violence prevention roundtable at Oakland University on Nov. 29, 2023. (Photo: Anna Liz Nichols)
“There are a lot of young people here today and we blew it, the adults in this room owe you a huge apology,” Gold said.
But Gold, Busch and Johnson expressed hope for the future, calling attention to Michigan gun safety reforms Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law this year, which include safe storage requirements, universal background checks for all gun sales in the state, extreme risk protection orders and recently, expanded gun restrictions for those convicted of domestic violence related criminal offenses.
Johnson was at the signing of some of the legislation on Michigan State University’s campus, where a gunman in in February open fired on the East Lansing school, killing three students and injuring five others. She said it’s taken a lot of hard work, in large part by a lot of young people such as MSU survivors she’s met and become friends with, to get gun safety legislation signed into law.
“Here in Michigan, I never thought that any of those things would pass. I can’t believe that it took two mass school shootings for it to pass, but I never thought it would pass either way. I’ve spoken at rallies where there were legislators and elected officials screaming at me over a megaphone telling me that I was lying about my story and that I wasn’t the survivor and that I was a political pawn,” Johnson said. “I never thought that any of these things would pass because of all the hate that so many people carry in their hearts, but it happened because people spoke up.”
Johnson said she’d like to see a safe storage law passed at the federal level, pointing to “Ethan’s Law” which has been introduced at a federal level in the past, named after Ethan Song, a 15-year-old who died after accidentally shooting himself with a gun he found at a friend’s house.
Johnson, who is involved in several organizations and is co-president of No Future Without Today, a student-led gun organization combating violence, said she would also like to see a federal assault weapons ban.
Democratic candidate for the 10th Congressional District Emily Busch speaks at a gun violence prevention roundtable at Oakland University on Nov. 29, 2023. (Photo: Anna Liz Nichols)
“I definitely was not involved in any of this. I knew nothing about politics and gun violence until it happened,” Johnson said of the Oxford shooting. “I wish that there were more people that weren’t affected by this who would stand up and realize that this is a problem because it shouldn’t just fall on survivors.”
Busch told the Advance she was in the same boat prior to 2021, but through community organizing and advocating for justice for her son, she has become more involved with policy and politics, leading to her decision to run for Congress in 2024.
Busch said it is the grit that she has developed since the shooting that will see her to the end, reflecting on the anniversary and upcoming sentencing for the shooter in December.
“Today and tomorrow and every day my child walks into that school is a reminder and it keeps me going every single day,” Busch said.
In reflecting on that terrifying day and how it has impacted her life and the lives of others around the state, Busch said if she could speak to her past self, who was making sense of what had happened and what to do next she would say, “Keep your head down and do the hard work because your kid is watching. … When it comes down to it, I’m doing this to be a good example to him to see that you can make change. … I’d tell myself keep going … and don’t stop.”
authored by Anna Liz Nichols
First published at https%3A%2F%2Fmichiganadvance.com%2F2023%2F11%2F29%2Ftwo-years-after-school-shooting-oxford-community-members-reflect-talk-gun-violence-prevention%2F