Michigan Lawmakers Want to Pass an 11-Bill Gun Safety Package. Here’s What Would Change
People embrace during the vigil at The Rock on Michigan State Universitys campus in East Lansing, Michigan on February 15, 2023. Credit - The Washington Post/Getty Images
Michigan lawmakers are aiming to pass an 11-bill gun safety package across the state this week, considering provisions that would require background checks on gun purchases, create safe storage laws, and establish extreme risk protection orders—also known as red flag laws.
Democrats, who have control of the state government for the first time in some 40 years, hope to deliver on the promise of advancing gun safety following a Michigan State University mass shooting last month that left three dead and five wounded.
The package, which includes Senate Bills 76-86, was introduced days after last month’s tragedy at Michigan State University, but much of the legislation was written by lawmakers after a 2021 shooting at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, Mich. that left four students dead and seven more injured. Democrats previously sought to pass legislation after the Oxford High shooting, but bills were blocked by Republicans, who then-controlled the state legislature.
“Gun violence has touched the lives of countless Americans. I personally have family members who have been the victims of gun violence and the impact of that violence reverberates for a lifetime,” said House Speaker Joe Tate in a press statement. “As elected leaders, it is our responsibility to do what we can to help keep our kids and our communities safe, and that means taking action on common-sense gun reforms. This is not a political issue; it is a public health emergency.”
Here’s what’s inside the gun reform package.
Stricter background checks
The bills would require criminal background checks to be performed for all gun purchases. Individuals would also have to obtain a license to own a firearm.
If passed, gun owners will have to register for any firearm purchase, including rifles and shotguns sold outside of federally licensed dealers, such as gun shows.
People who inherit a gun from a family member would also have to obtain a license moving forward.
The House is also considering a gun control package that is similar in scope. Under House Bill 4138, individuals who already own a long gun and rifle would not have to complete a background check, the Detroit News reports.
The bill would also shift the responsibility to perform background checks and register firearms to gun sellers. If the gun is passed onto a family member, then the responsibility to register the gun would fall on the person who inherited it.
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Red flag laws
Also in the package is an extreme risk protection order, or red flag law, which allows family members, friends and others to petition the court to remove guns from people who may use it to harm themselves or others.
Proponents of this provision argue that it can help prevent suicide, mass shootings, and domestic violence.
Under federal law, only gun owners who have been convicted of a felony, entered a mental institution, or been accused of domestic violence, can get their firearm taken. The proposed law, however, allows the weapon to be taken if someone is showing alarming behavior.
Nineteen other states have enacted their own red flag law.
“Extreme risk protection orders save lives by allowing family members and law enforcement to act before warning signs escalate into tragedies,” Sen. Rosemary Bayer said last year, when the state was also considering a red flag bill. “Michigan needs red flag laws on the books to not only help us prevent the next school shooting, but so that we can also help protect our loved ones in their darkest hour.”
Gun storage safety
Senate Bills 79-82, which are a part of the package, would require gun owners to be proactive about keeping their guns away from children and teens.
The legislation asks gun owners to practice safety by storing their weapon in a locked box, keeping the firearm unloaded, or locking up the firearm if they know a minor is present. As part of the bills, lawmakers will remove the sales and use taxes on firearm safety devices to ease the financial responsibility that it would impose on gun owners.
The legislature also proposed changes that would make firearm dealers and manufacturers legally liable for crimes committed with their weapons. Under the Protection of Lawful Commerce Arms Act, manufacturers are federally protected. But, the proposed amendments would allow civilians to pursue lawsuits against dealers and manufacturers in the state if they “can prove they were harmed by a firearm industry member’s knowing violations of that state law regulating firearm industry commerce,” the Detroit News reports.
“Mandating the responsible, safe storage of firearms will help keep children from accessing dangerous weapons,” said state Rep. Felicia Brabec in a statement. “We owe it to the people of our state to pass this common-sense legislation.”