Opinion: Michigan Rep. Matt Hall’s abusive past behavior should concern us all

Michigan GOP state Rep. Matt Hall

As a Michigan State University student, I have had a tragic front row seat to the realities of gun, sexual and domestic violence and have been pushed to the frontlines of important conversations on these issues.

For me and my fellow MSU students, state policies under consideration in the Michigan Legislature are of particular interest — our safety and that of our campus community depend on elected officials to take action. 

That’s why it was particularly troubling to learn of Republican Michigan state Rep. Matt Hall’s threats during his college days to shoot someone who befriended his former girlfriend, especially in the context of the legislature determining whether to pass meaningful anti-domestic violence legislation that would protect Michiganders from gun threats. Someone who has exhibited this kind of abusive behavior has no place in our highest levels of government.

This session, the legislature considered bills to keep guns out of the hands of individuals convicted of domestic violence. Thanks to Democrats, this legislation passed and is headed to the governor’s desk, but many Republicans including Hall voted against this commonsense legislation. It’s extremely concerning that the leader of one of our political parties in the legislature voted against keeping Michiganders safe from domestic violence.

We need more policy tools to keep our communities, schools and college campuses safe. That requires leaders we can count on to understand just how serious the stakes are. Hall emailed a friend of his then-girlfriend that he had “a bullet … with your name on it,” adding, “the South will rise again” — a longtime slogan of the Ku Klux Klan that was more recently chanted by white nationalists rallying in Charlottesville, Virginia. Given his past behavior, we simply cannot trust Hall to take violent threats to our state seriously.

Hall has never addressed his abusive threats in the context of the legislature’s consideration of gun safety legislation. It’s a shame he’s never had to. Some people might excuse his threats by saying they happened years ago, this is old news, it is time to move on.

But we are living in different times. My generation is examining the actions of leaders from across industries, and we are demanding better. We should be able to look up to our elected officials and take pride in their integrity. Threatening someone with a gun over a romantic matter does not give us faith that they understand the realities of domestic abuse in this state.

Raegan Wellman is the president of the Michigan State University chapter of the National Organization for Women’s Campus Action Network.