The Michigan House voted to advance a series of bills that would keep guns out of the hands of violent abusers. Advocates say they’ll help protect survivors—and stop domestic violence before it has a chance to turn deadly.
LANSING—Legislation that aims to strengthen protections for survivors of domestic violence is headed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk for her signature after the state House voted last week to prohibit those convicted of domestic violence from possessing a firearm for eight years.
Under current state law, only those convicted of felonies are banned from possessing, using, buying, or carrying a gun. But under three bills passed last week by the state House of Representatives, that statewide ban is set to expand next year to include those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, for a period of eight years after their sentence ends.
The bills were introduced in the Senate in September, where they passed along party lines.
“Michigan is finally taking these important steps forward to save lives and protect domestic violence survivors. The intersection of firearms and domestic violence has been a crisis facing too many” sponsoring Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) said in a statement last month.
Chang also told The ‘Gander in August that a new, eight-year firearm ban for domestic abusers in Michigan is “reasonable and appropriate, given what we know about domestic violence.”
Nearly half of all women murdered in the United States have been killed by a current or former intimate partner, and because domestic violence almost always escalates in the severity of abuse, Chang and other Democrats believe the legislation will inevitably save more lives.
READ MORE: Bills to disarm abusers to curb ‘lethal cycle’ of domestic violence
“Everyone deserves to feel safe in their home. Yet, too many women, children and families in our state are reeling from the impacts of domestic violence,” state Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) said in a statement. “And when domestic violence is accompanied by a firearm, the negative outcomes are devastating for communities. As we work to eradicate domestic violence, this is an important step to reduce the tragic loss of life.”
Almost every Republican lawmaker voted against the bills—including House Minority Leader Matt Hall, who threatened to shoot another student with a shotgun when he was in college.
Federal statistics show there were 341 domestic violence homicides in Michigan between 2003 and 2012. Of those, more than half of the victims were killed with guns. Research also shows access to a gun makes it five times more likely that an abusive partner will kill their partner.
At least 31 other states have passed similar laws to temporarily disarm those convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse. Co-sponsoring Sen. Sue Shink (D-Northville) said she heard “heartbreaking” testimony from survivors about an issue that touches “all corners of our state.”
“The research is clear: firearms and domestic violence are a volatile combination that ends all too often in the senseless loss of life,” Shink said in a statement last month. “This legislation serves as an important step to disarm abusers and protect survivors from further pain.”
Under the bills, those convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor would regain the opportunity to possess, use, purchase, or carry a firearm after the eight-year period expires.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed—and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed—additional legislation to help reduce gun violence in Michigan, namely by ensuring that guns are kept out of the hands of children and young teenagers, and requiring background checks for gun sales.
Additional firearm-related legislation passed by state lawmakers this year will also enable judges to temporarily confiscate guns from those deemed a danger to themselves or others.
Those laws are also set to take effect next year.
State Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills) also told The ‘Gander she plans to pursue legislation that would create a program where Michiganders—particularly those struggling with mental crises—can volunteer to be put on a temporary, statewide “do-not-sell” list for firearms.
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