In late 2021, Michigan was shaken by the Oxford High School shooting. The tragedy of that event has sparked debate around firearm ownership, use, storage, and the potential for liability. Heated discussions are occurring on the state and federal levels.
Numerous bills by Michigan Democrats and Republicans were introduced in the 2021 session. Proposed changes range from requiring universal background checks to repealing the pistol registry to allowing residents to concealed carry without a permit.
It can be a dizzying experience trying to follow the debate over firearm legislation. So, we prepared an overview of proposed legislation at the federal and state levels as well as a brief comparison to Michigan’s current firearm laws.
On the Federal Level:
In late December 2021, U.S. Representative Elisa Slotkin of Michigan’s 8th Congressional district promised to introduce what has been called the “Safe Guns Safe Kids Act.” In the press, she has said the Act would seek to impute liability and criminal penalties upon gun owners that do not secure their firearms. Slotkin has stated “If a child goes on to commit a crime or hurt others, you could be liable, you could be held accountable criminally for up to five years in prison.” Locally, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel released a statement in support of the Act.
On the State Level:
In Michigan, a number of new bills have been introduced in the House and Senate.
House Bills 5627 and 5628 as well as Senate Bills 785 and 786 seek to prohibit the sale or possession of a magazine capable of holding over 10 rounds. Violation of these bills, should they become law, amount to a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500.00 or 90 days in jail. However, a subsequent violation would be categorized as a felony, punishable of up to a $5,000.00 fine or two years in prison. A person who already owned a magazine exceeding 10 rounds would be able to keep it so long as it was reported to the person’s local law enforcement agency. Currently, Michigan has no specific laws which place a limit on magazine capacity.
Much like Slotkin’s proposal, House Bills 5066 and 5069 as well as Senate Bills 550 and 553 have been introduced to require anyone who stores a firearm in an area that may be accessible by a minor to (a) secure the firearm with a locking device; (b) store it in a lock box; or (c) “keep it in a location that a reasonable person would believe is secure”. If these bills were to become law, a failure to abide by them would be a felony punishable of up to 5 years in prison if the minor uses the firearm to hurt, injure, or kill anyone, including themselves.
Currently, Michigan has no specific law regarding storage of firearms. However, MCL 28.435 does require that any licensed Federal Firearms Dealer include (a) a commercially available trigger lock or (b) other device designed to prevent discharge or (c) a commercially available gun case or storage container to prevent access to the firearm when the dealer sells a firearm.
Senate Bills 454-456 as well as House Bills 4869-4871 seek to impose a universal background check for anyone attempting to purchase a firearm. This legislation would extend a licensing process currently only utilized for handguns (pistols). Michigan currently has no specific licensing requirement for purchase of a long gun.
Alternatively, Senate Bills 489-492 and House Bills 5364-5367 seek to allow residents to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. This type of structure for a state is colloquially known as a “constitutional carry.” Currently, Michigan requires a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Senate Bills 646-648 and House Bills 5312-5314 are aimed at repealing the Michigan Pistol registry. The bills also seek the destruction of existing records unless held for an ongoing criminal matter or civil lawsuit. Michigan currently requires that handguns be registered with the county or police.
State Level Bipartisan Bills:
Senate Bill 678-679 and House Bill 5371-5372 seek to prohibit any individual that is convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor from possession of a gun or ammunition for 8 years from the date of (a) payment of all fines and (b) completion of any jail time or probation.
No matter what side of the proposed legislation you are on, there are some basic safety techniques that can be used when dealing with firearms. The Michigan Department of State Police has issued some guidance on use and storage of a firearm in the home environment.
These tips include:
- Having a discussion with family members regarding safe and unsafe use
- Treating every firearm as if it is loaded
- Unloading a firearm when it is not in use
- Keeping ammunition and the firearm out of the reach of children
- Using proper eye and ear protection when using a firearm
Throughout 2022 we may see some movement on a few of these proposals. Many of us will be watching closely. We hope that everyone has a safe and prosperous new year.
When questions or concerns arise about legislation, all citizens have the option to write or call local representatives. Contact information for Representatives can be found at: SOM – Legislature Contacts (michigan.gov)