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Month After MSU Campus Shootings, Michigan Dems Pass New Gun Control Bills
None of these laws could have stopped the shooter, unless they had.
The Michigan state Senate yesterday passed several gun control bills that will expand background checks, create a "red flag" law that will allow judges to remove firearms from people who are at risk of committing violence, and require safe storage of guns in homes where children are present.
The bills were passed a month and a couple days after the deadly mass shooting at Michigan State University in East Lansing, which killed three students and left five others wounded. The shooter in that incident shot himself when confronted by police. The MSU shooting itself occurred the night before the five-year anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida; as we noted at the time, it won't be long until every day on the calendar is the anniversary of a horrific mass shooting.
The package of 11 bills passed on a mostly party-line vote by Democrats, who last fall won majorities in both houses of the Michigan Legislature. Two Republicans crossed party lines to vote for a pair of bills that will exempt firearms safety devices — trigger locks, gun safes and the like — from taxes for one year. Hard to say if that will be enough of a betrayal of the Holy Second Amendment for those two to be censured by the state GOP. It's a tax break, so maybe they'll get away with it.
Several of the bills had previously been introduced in the wake of the 2021 mass shooting at Oxford High School , but failed at the time due to Republican opposition . Clean elections matter: Republicans had previously gerrymandered themselves a majority, but once fair district maps were drawn by a nonpartisan commission, Democrats won.
The Michigan House passed a similar package of bills last week — on a purely party-line vote — but the legislation's language isn't quite identical, so the two houses will have to decide which version to pass and send on to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is planning to sign either set.
Under current Michigan law, purchasers of handguns must undergo a background check for all purchases, whether from a federally licensed firearms dealer or a private party. But private sales of long guns aren't subject to a background check so the bills passed yesterday tighten that up by extending the licensing and background check requirements to sales of all firearms, whether from a dealer or a private party.
There's a narrow exception in the background check bills, for "people under the age of 18 who use their guns for hunting or who possess the guns under the supervision of a parent or guardian."
Since that might be construed as cruelty if applied to children, the locking provisions apply to the guns instead. The law would apply to guns kept in vehicles as well.
Failure to safely store a firearm would be a misdemeanor, but if a minor gets hold of an unsecured gun and commits a crime with it, the gun's owner could face stricter charges depending on the nature of that crime. If the minor injures someone, the owner would face felony charges and up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine; if the kid kills someone, the maximum sentence would be up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of $7,500.
Red Flag Law
Another measure passed yesterday will put in place the state's first "red flag" or extreme protection order provision. It will
allow family members, mental health professionals, law enforcement officers and others to petition a court to bar someone from possessing or purchasing a firearm if they pose a risk of hurting themselves or others.
The petitioner would need to show that the person presents a "significant risk of personal injury" to themselves or to others.
Republicans, predictably, whined that nearly all of the bills would only infringe on the rights of "law abiding gun owners," and that "criminals," who are completely different people, would ignore them. They also insisted that the bills would have done nothing to prevent recent mass shootings in the state.
You could certainly make the case that a red flag law might have taken away the gun used in the MSU shootings; in that case, the shooter's father told media that he was certain his son had a gun, which he shouldn't have, following a 2019 weapons charge. And the 2021 Oxford school shooting was committed with a handgun the boy's parents had bought for him as a gift; it was kept unlocked in their home. The parents have since been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter for being shockingly irresponsible regarding their son's dangerous behavior prior to the shooting. Would they have actually kept the gun locked up if it were required by law? That's unknowable of course, but four teenagers would still be alive today if they had — and maybe their very troubled kid would be getting therapy instead of facing life in prison.
At a rally in favor of gun reform yesterday, state Rep. Angela Rigas showed up with a bullhorn so she could heckle and try to shout down those speaking in favor of the laws, including survivors of the Oxford shooting. Because we guess an armed society is a polite society.
In other Michigan Good News, Gov. Whitmer yesterday signed into law an expansion of the state's anti-discrimination law that will now explicitly protect LGBTQ+ folks. Court decisions had already held that the law applied to LGBTQ+ Michiganders, but now they're in the statute. And yes, Whitmer teared up a little as she thanked the Democratic majority in the Lege for coming through on the bill.
"Their tears of happiness are coming down, I’m trying to hold it together — can’t look at them too much,” she joked.
Hell yes. You, over there, stop chopping those onions.
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