protestors in front of microphone
Detroit City Councilman Scott Benson joined activists and other lawmakers Tuesday July 12, 2022, outside Action Impact Firearms and Training Center to call for stronger gun laws in the wake of the shooting death of Detroit police officer Loren Courts. The Eastpointe shop sold the gun used in the shooting. Benson has drafted a resolution urging federal partners to scrutinize the shop’s transaction history. (BridgeDetroit photo by Bryce Huffman)

Detroit City Councilman Scott Benson wants the Department of Justice to review the transaction history of an Eastpointe gun shop that sold the semi-automatic pistol used to kill a Detroit police officer. 

Benson requested that the council’s policy staff draft a resolution urging the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to look into the sales history at Action Impact Firearms and Training Center in the wake of the July 6 shooting death of Detroit officer Loren Courts

The resolution, if approved, would ask ATF’s Detroit office to review the gun shop’s “federal firearms license for potential revocation, as a direct result of this sale.” 

“In addition, Council implores the ATF to review all of the gun sales at Action Impact Firearms and Training Center for additional gun crimes, to determine how many illegal transactions can be traced back to this dealer,” the resolution from the council’s Legislative Policy Division reads. 

The full council on Tuesday is expected to vote on whether to send the draft to a subcommittee for review. The gun-related measure is the latest from Benson who also has been urging state lawmakers to repeal laws that preempt cities and municipalities from regulating firearms within their jurisdictions. 

“We have to have some level of control and the ability to regulate weapons sales within our own communities,” Benson told BridgeDetroit, “or you’ll see what happened (to Officer Courts).”

The councilman noted he’s also called for federal lawmakers to reinstate the federal assault weapons ban, which was signed into law in 1994 before expiring in 2004. 

The resolution published Thursday on the city’s website notes data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that approximately 81,300 nonfatal injuries and 31,672 deaths involving guns in the country occur every year. Greater public awareness, it argues, is needed on the local, state and national levels. 

This, the draft states, is “not an attack on the Second Amendment, or an attempt to curb gun rights, but the level of enforcement for laws already on the books has been inadequate to stop gun violence in America.”

“According to the FBI, more than two-thirds of murders nationwide are committed by criminals using handguns,” it reads. “In addition, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death for African Americans aged 25 to 34, is homicide committed by firearm.”

Benson, during a news conference last week outside the gun shop, said he believes in the U.S. Constitution and a person’s right to own a weapon.

“But not everybody should have access to a weapon because people have proven themselves to be irresponsible,” he said.

The councilman was among a crowd of about two dozen others, including elected officials, activists who gathered last Tuesday outside Action Impact, holding signs and calling for an end to gun violence.

According to a criminal complaint filed last week, Sheldon Thomas, 26, legally purchased a 7.62 semi-automatic Draco pistol – a weapon similar in caliber to an AK-47 – from the shop and then illegally sold it to Ehmani Davis, 19, who Detroit police say used the weapon to fatally shoot Courts. 

Courts, a five-year veteran of DPD, was among four officers in two scout cars who had initially responded to a call of shots fired in a west side neighborhood just after 730 p.m. on July 6. 

Bill Kucyk, the owner of Action Impact Firearms in Eastpointe and its Southfield location, said last week that there’s “no perfect system” for making sure background checks catch every potential shooter. 

“You couldn’t design one if you tried to,” Kucyk said. “You wouldn’t just be checking Action Impact, you’re checking every potential gun purchase across this country. That’s a lot.”

Kucyk has said that he took the Draco pistols out of stock after Courts was killed. He could not be immediately reached Monday for comment on Benson’s resolution. 

Detroit Police Chief James White has said that his officers were “ambushed” by Davis and “had no chance” after Davis shot out the window of his apartment and opened fire on Courts while the officer was still seated in the patrol car. 

White said the incident robbed the city and its police department of a hero. Courts, 40, was a father of two and a second-generation Detroit officer. Courts’ funeral was held Monday. 

“We’re sick and tired of this,” Minister Malik Shabazz, leader of the Marcus Garvey Black Panther Movement and founder of the Detroit 300, said. “This bloodletting is going on every day and it’s got to stop. The Second Amendment says you have the right to bear arms, but it doesn’t say you should have Uzis and AK-47s in your neighborhoods.”

The issue of stricter gun control has been debated in the state legislature for years with little progress. Democratic State Sen. Rosemary Bayer, who represents areas including Pontiac, Oxford, and Lake Orion, said gun control bills are introduced every session but largely stall because of the state senate’s Republican majority.

“We keep trying to raise the visibility of the issue, trying to help people outside the legislature understand that this is critical to your life,” Bayer told BridgeDetroit. “This is not something we just can’t do because it’s a hobby for us. It’s actually impacting people’s lives.”

Bayer, who co-chairs Michigan’s legislative Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention Caucus, said she sponsored three gun control bills following the mass shooting inside Oxford High School shooting that left four students dead. The bills, she said, targeted some of the same “common sense” gun control reforms that have been introduced in the past two years. 

“We’ve been asking for universal background checks, for mental health checks, for lower magazine capacity in some weapons…the biggest barrier is a small number of people who would prefer to put their politics and profits over people,” she said. 

President Joe Biden in June signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act into law, which included enhancing background checks for gun buyers under 21 years old, $750 million in grants for states to implement “red flag” laws and to invest in community mental health programs, and the act also restricts convicted domestic violence abusers from buying guns. 

Bryce Huffman is a reporter for BridgeDetroit. He was formerly a reporter for Michigan Radio, and host of the podcast, Same Same Different.

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1 Comment

  1. Benson need to do something within the Council span of control to reduce illegal use of guns to commit crimes in this city . There are many acts council can implement to help reduce crime in this city. Talk to the citizens who live in this crime ridden city , the officers who put their lives on the line daily and safety experts .

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