Michigan Republicans Respond to Call for Gun Safety Laws—By Trying to Repeal Gun Safety Laws

Republican state Sen. Lana Theis speaks with reporters in Lansing in 2019. (AP Photo/David Eggert, File)

By Kyle Kaminski

May 4, 2023

A package of legislation introduced this week by nine Republican lawmakers in the Michigan Senate would make it easier for Michiganders to own and carry guns, but polling shows that’s the opposite of what voters are trying to accomplish.

LANSING—Almost three months after a mass shooting left three students dead on the campus of Michigan State University, Republican state lawmakers have finally formed their response—in the form of new legislation that would actually make it easier to access guns.

Nine Michigan Senate Republicans on Tuesday introduced six different bills to eliminate existing state requirements for concealed carry licenses—namely by repealing several portions of state law that currently prescribe criminal charges for those who carry concealed guns without a permit, or inside certain prohibited places like churches, hospitals and sports arenas.

State Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton) has contended, without evidence, that watering down restrictions on guns would be more effective at reducing gun violence than expanding background checks and implementing safe gun storage requirements. 

“Danger can strike at any moment. Now, more than ever, it is essential that law-abiding citizens be prepared to protect themselves and their families,” she said in a press release announcing the bills. “Residents shouldn’t have to ask permission to better defend themselves.”

Both Theis—the bill’s lead sponsor—and a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Township) have also cited religious reasons for pushing for the new legislation, claiming Michiganders have a “God-given right” to easily accessible guns.

None of the bills stand a realistic shot at passing the Democratic-led House and Senate, or gaining a signature from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Still, the legislation marked the first—and only—concrete policy proposal to come from Michigan Republicans since the tragedy at MSU, and two other mass shootings tracked in the state since.

The legislation also stands in sharp contrast to the desires of Michigan voters. 

Recent polling from Progress Michigan shows nearly 8 in 10 Michigan voters (77%) support universal background checks. Another new poll from Giffords, a gun safety advocacy group, shows about 21% of Michigan voters picked gun reforms as their “top priority” for Michigan—beating out all other issues like the economy, inflation, public safety, and education.

State Rep. Phil Skaggs (D-East Grand Rapids) called out the hypocrisy on Twitter: “The Republican response to the epidemic of gun violence? More guns! Republicans want to do away with permits and put more guns in your neighborhood, in your school, in your hospital, in your place of worship. They only care about doing the bidding of the corporate gun lobby.” 

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) also weighed in:

Democratic-led legislation signed into law by Whitmer last month is moving Michigan in a different direction—namely by ensuring guns are kept out of the hands of children and young teenagers, and requiring background checks on all firearm purchases.

Whitmer is also expected to sign additional gun safety legislation for new 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.

READ MORE: Whitmer Signs Historic New Legislation to Curb Gun Violence in Michigan

Author

  • 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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