‘Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough’: New Gun Safety Laws to Curb Gun Violence in Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs legislation to enact extreme risk protection orders in Michigan.

By Kyle Kaminski

May 23, 2023

Newly signed gun safety laws are designed to keep firearms away from Michiganders who may use them to harm themselves or others—and they could possibly prevent another mass shooting. 

MICHIGAN—Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has given final approval to new gun safety laws designed to keep guns away from those who may harm themselves or others. And state officials think they will go a long way in slowing gun violence and preventing Michigan’s next mass shooting.

“No Michigander should fear going to school, work, the grocery store, or their own home because of gun violence,” Whitmer said on Monday. “Only thoughts and prayers aren’t enough.”

The gun violence prevention bills (Senate Bill 83 and House Bills 4146-48) signed Monday will create extreme risk protection orders—also known as a red-flag laws—that will enable certain people (like cops and doctors) to request that firearms be temporarily confiscated from gun owners who are found by a state judge to be at risk of shooting themselves or others.

“Extreme risk protection orders have been proven to reduce suicides, save lives, and keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and violent criminals,” Whitmer added. “Let’s keep taking common-sense action to reduce gun violence and keep families and communities safe.”

The new laws are set to go into effect next spring. Specifically, they will allow family members, police, mental health professionals, roommates and former dating partners to petition a judge to remove firearms from those they believe pose an imminent threat to themselves or others.

After a request is filed, the judge will have 24 hours to decide whether to issue an order. If the order is granted, the judge will then have 14 days to set a hearing during which the flagged person would have to prove they do not pose a risk in order to get their guns back. Standard orders would last for one year.

“We have heard too many times from those who knew a mass shooter who had expressed concern in advance about that mass shooter’s intentions,” Whitmer said after signing the bill. “With extreme risk protection orders, we have a mechanism to step in and save lives.”

Additional legislation signed this week will prohibit Michiganders who were put under an extreme risk protection order from qualifying for a pistol license and a concealed pistol license. 

Michigan is now the 21st state to implement red flag laws and research shows that they can save lives by preventing shootings and suicides. 

Karen Kobylik, whose daughter shot and killed her brother and boyfriend before taking her own life last May, attended the bill signing this week. Kobylik had repeatedly called police before the shooting, pleading with them to take her daughter’s guns. She told reporters that she believed all three lives would have been saved in the state had there been a red flag law.

“I want to thank Karen and all the brave people who have come forward and shared the most painful story of your life to try to help improve the world for others,” Whitmer said on Monday.

Some rogue local county sheriffs in Michigan have promised not to enforce the newly signed laws, but Attorney General Dana Nessel said that she will “make certain” that she can find “someone with jurisdiction” who will enforce the protection orders in all 83 counties.

The country is on a record pace for mass shootings this year—and gun violence within schools has rocked Michigan in recent years. Seven students have been killed, and 12 others injured, in shootings at both Oxford High School and Michigan State University over the past two years.

The new protection orders are the final pieces of legislation to be signed in a sweeping 11-bill gun safety package advanced by Democratic lawmakers following the shooting at MSU earlier this year. Safe storage and universal background checks were signed into law last month.

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

Republican state lawmakers, meanwhile, have spent their time in Lansing trying to make it easier to access guns—namely by trying to repeal existing laws that criminalize carrying concealed guns without a permit, or inside certain places like churches and hospitals. 

Earlier this month, two Michigan school districts banned backpacks as a result of fears of firearms being brought into schools. The ban at Grand Rapids Public Schools came after a third-grader brought a loaded gun into the school—a move which may not have been necessary, had a few more Republican state lawmakers voted in support of recent gun storage measures.

READ MORE: Schools Lean on Backpack Bans After Republicans Delay Gun Safety Laws

Michigan Democrats, who are in control of all levels of state government for the first time in 40 years, have indicated that they plan to advance further gun safety measures. Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist has described the legislation as “a floor for the types of intervention that we can do.”

Added Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids): “In the aftermath of gun violence tragedies, we often hear from families who said that they knew their loved one was in a dark place, but there was nothing they could do to get the guns out of the equation. That will not be the case any longer. … Whether it’s domestic violence, homicide, mass shootings, or suicide, we want to address gun violence in all its ugly forms. This legislation helps law enforcement and the courts do that effectively and swiftly, and Michigan will be a safer place because of it.” 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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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