What’s the Deal with Gun Reforms in Michigan?

In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, armed men stand on the steps at the State Capitol after a rally in support of President Donald Trump in Lansing.(AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

By Kyle Kaminski

March 28, 2023

Democrats in the Michigan House of Representatives could cement the final votes on a sweeping gun safety package early next month, after new requirements for safe storage and universal background checks cleared the state Senate last week. Here’s the deal.

MICHIGAN—A package of proposed laws introduced in the wake of last month’s deadly mass shooting at Michigan State University aims to prevent more senseless gun violence in Michigan, namely by ensuring that gun owners are acting responsibly with their guns—and making it more difficult for bad actors (and children) to obtain them.

Here’s what you need to know about the bills:

What Do the Bills Do?

The legislative package has three main components: new requirements that background checks be conducted before people can take ownership of a gun; new requirements that gun owners keep their guns locked up around children; and the creation of extreme risk protection orders, also known as red flag laws, which would allow judges to have guns temporarily confiscated from those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Where Do the Reforms Stand?

Various portions of the 11-bill package—including new requirements for locking up guns around children—have already been passed by both the state House and Senate, with final votes expected on new requirements for background checks and the creation of so-called “red flag” laws shortly after the legislative session resumes on Tuesday, April 11. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has indicated that she will act quickly to sign the legislation into law once it reaches her desk.

Why Now?

The gun safety package under consideration was first introduced by Democrats in response to two school mass shootings in Michigan in a 15-month span, including last month’s Michigan State University shooting where 43-year-old Anthony McRae, armed with two handguns and dozens of rounds of ammunition, terrorized the campus for four hours as students were ordered to shelter in place. Three students were killed in the shooting and five others were injured. 

Students and community members gather outside of the Michigan Capitol in Lansing on Feb. 20 for a protest calling for lawmakers to enact gun control legislation following a shooting on the Michigan State University campus on Feb. 13. (AP Photo/Joey Cappelletti, File)

Much of the package was crafted by Democrats nearly 15 months ago, following a shooting at Oxford High School, but the bills saw little movement with Republicans controlling the House and Senate. Republicans also opposed them this year, though now they’re in the minority.

A Deeper Look at the Reforms

The proposed legislation would require Michiganders to obtain a license to own a firearm. It would also require background checks for all gun purchases (which is currently only required for handguns), and require gun owners to register for any gun purchase, including at gun shows.

If the package passes into law, those who already own long guns and rifles would not need to get a background check—though those who inherit a gun would be required to obtain a license. It would also shift the responsibility for background checks registration to the gun dealers. 

The safe storage components of the legislation would require those with children in their home (or the reasonable expectation that there will be children in their home) to keep their guns unloaded and locked away in a secure container with a trigger-locking mechanism. 

The bills also include a series of criminal charges for those who fail to secure guns which later end up in the hands of children—starting with a 93-day misdemeanor and escalating to a potential 15-year felony if the unsecured weapon is later used by a minor to kill another person.

The proposed red-flag laws, meanwhile, would create a legal mechanism to temporarily remove guns from people with potentially violent behavior, only through a judge’s order, and only at the request of law enforcement or family members in hopes of preventing them from hurting themselves or others. These laws currently exist in 19 other states.

Despite conspiracy theories perpetuated by the Republican Party, these laws would not give the government broad authority to “disarm” Michiganders. An Associated Press analysis found many states with red flag laws used them only sparingly. And in the rare cases where they’ve been used, research shows they can save lives by preventing mass shooting and suicides. 

READ MORE: Gun Safety Reforms Will Not Recreate the Holocaust in Michigan

Where the Public Stands on Gun Laws

Polls show that most Michiganders support the pending gun reform legislation. 

Recent polling from Progress Michigan shows that nearly 8 in 10 Michigan voters (77%) support universal background checks, with at least 62% of voters also supporting new red flag laws and safe storage requirements. About 49% of voters also said they believed the legislation will reduce gun violence, while only 36% said they don’t think it will make a difference.

Former Congresswoman and gun violence survivor Gabrielle Giffords blows a kiss to one of the speakers addressing support gun reform legislation at the Michigan State Capitol on March 15 in Lansing. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Another poll from Giffords, a gun safety advocacy group, showed that 21% of Michigan voters picked gun reforms as their “top priority” for Michigan—beating out all other issues, including the economy, inflation, public safety and education. Additionally, the poll showed that 89% of voters support background checks.

President Joe Biden has also recently signed an executive order aimed at stiffening background checks to buy firearms, and promoting more secure firearms storage across the country. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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