How Michigan Democrats are strengthening the state’s gun safety laws

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs bills to combat gun violence, Thursday, April 13, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich.

After a deadly mass shooting at Michigan State University in February, Democratic lawmakers in Michigan moved fast to strengthen the state’s gun safety laws. By March, the state Senate had passed new 11 bills to strengthen legislation that includes a red flag law and laws requiring the safe storage of guns and ammunition and stronger background checks for people who want to purchase a firearm.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed 10 of the bills into law in April and May. “We are turning our pain into purpose and honoring those we have lost with commonsense gun violence prevention legislation supported by a majority of Michiganders,” Whitmer said in a statement at the time of the April bill signing.

Three of the bills signed by Whitmer were crafted specifically to bolster the state’s red flag law, which essentially allows people to petition a judge to issue what is called an extreme risk protection order to confiscate a firearm from an individual temporarily if they’re deemed a risk to others or themselves. One of the three bills Whitmer signed bans a person from purchasing a gun while they’re under an extreme risk protection order. Another, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Julie Brixie, waives court fees and provides services for the process of removing firearms from someone who is under an extreme risk protection order. And a third bill, introduced by Democratic Rep. Stephanie Young, establishes sentencing guidelines for someone who makes a false statement in support of a request for an extreme risk protection order.

But the state Legislature’s Democratic majority isn’t stopping there. According to the Michigan Advance, state Sen. Stephanie Chang and state Rep. Amos O’Neal, both Democrats, are crafting legislation to restrict firearm sales to people convicted of domestic violence, which they plan to introduce in both chambers of the Legislature in the late summer or early fall.

The legislation would prevent anyone who’s been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor from buying a gun for a set period of years after their jail time or probation period has ended. It’s not the first time the lawmakers have introduced this legislation: As the Michigan Advance notes, both Sen. Chang and Rep. O’Neal introduced similar bills, in 2021 and in 2018. They did not make it to a floor vote under the Legislature’s Republican majority.

According to the Advance, Democratic state Sen. Rosemary Bayer is working on a bill that would allow people who are at risk of suicide to put themselves on a registry that restricts them from buying a gun. Similar versions of Bayer’s bill have passed and been signed into law in Virginia, Utah, and Washington.

“The progress that the legislature and Governor Whitmer have made this year on the issue of gun violence is nothing short of historic,” Ryan Bates, the executive director of End Gun Violence Michigan, told the American Independent Foundation in an emailed statement. “Our leaders in Lansing actually listened to us and passed the laws that the community has been calling for. There’s still more work to do, for example, like strengthening our laws to protect domestic violence survivors, and I’m confident that we can keep up the momentum in the fall.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.