Michigan’s new gun laws take effect in February. Here’s what you need to know.

By Kyle Kaminski

January 10, 2024

Gun safety legislation signed into law last year by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer takes effect Feb. 13. Some Michiganders will soon be required to secure their firearms at home.

MICHIGAN—Legislation signed into law last year by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer aims to make Michigan a safer place—namely by ensuring that guns are kept out of the hands of children and teenagers, and requiring background checks be completed before all firearm purchases.

Those laws (and more) will officially take effect on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. And that means some Michiganders—especially parents and others with children living in their homes—will soon need to make some changes to the way they’ve been securing and storing their guns.

Here’s a quick guide to all of the new gun safety laws taking effect next month:

Safe Storage

Michigan’s new safe storage laws (Senate Bill 79 and Senate Bill 80) enact requirements for Michiganders who store or leave their firearm unattended on any property—including in their own home—when they “reasonably know” that a minor is likely to be present on the property.

Specifically, the new law requires Michigan gun owners to keep their firearms either stored in a locked box or locked container or kept unloaded and locked with a trigger lock.

When a person stores or leaves a firearm unattended on someone else’s property and they reasonably know that a minor is likely to be on the premises, gun owners also have the added option to store the gun in a locked vehicle, either in a locked box or locked with a trigger lock.

The new laws include a range of criminal penalties 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 gun is used to kill another person. Polling from Progress Michigan shows that 62% of voters supported the new safe storage requirements.

New Background Checks

The signing of House Bills 4138 and 4142 closed a loophole in state law that had allowed people to purchase rifles and long guns without first undergoing a background check.

The new law requires Michiganders to obtain a license before they can purchase a rifle or long gun, which mirrors the process that’s currently in place for pistols, and means that background checks will be required for all gun purchases. Those who already own rifles will not need a background check—but anyone who inherits them will need to get licensed.

Borrowing a long gun for the purpose of target shooting or hunting does not require any permits or background checks. Under the new law, family members can also no longer give a long gun to another family member unless the person receiving the gun first gets a background check.

Polls show that nearly 8 in 10 Michigan voters (77%) support universal background checks. About 49% of voters also said they believed the new legislation would be effective in reducing gun violence in Michigan, while only 36% said they didn’t think it would make a difference.

Extreme Risk Protection Orders

Additional legislation signed by Whitmer is designed to help prevent a person in distress or crisis from using a firearm to inflict harm—namely by allowing judges to sign court orders to have guns temporarily confiscated from those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Specifically, the laws create a legal mechanism in which dating partners, spouses, family members, roommates, cops, health care providers, and mental health professionals can petition a court to have a person’s firearms temporarily removed from their possession.

Under the law, judges will be able to enter emergency, short-term orders to remove guns after receiving evidence that the person poses an immediate risk. Afterwards, they must hold a hearing to review the evidence for and against issuing a longer-term firearm removal order.

According to a legislative analysis, the risk protection orders are not designed to take firearms away from gun owners who aren’t dangerous or in distress. They are also designed to only have a limited duration that can only be extended by a judge after another evidentiary hearing is held.

These laws currently exist in 19 other states. And despite conspiracy theories perpetuated by the Michigan Republican Party, they 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’re used, research shows they can save lives.

Domestic Violence Laws

Legislation that aims to strengthen protections for survivors of domestic violence is also set to take effect in February after being signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November.

The new laws bar those convicted of domestic violence from buying, owning, or transporting a gun for a period of eight years after their sentence. It’s an expansion to the current law, which only bars those convicted of felonies from possessing or buying a gun.

In a statement last year, Whitmer said the “common-sense gun violence prevention bills” will help ensure that violent criminals cannot harm others and that survivors are protected from further violence: “Keeping Michiganders—especially young women—safe and healthy is a top priority, and these bills will take long overdue steps to protect individuals from abuse,” she said.

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 individual will kill their partner.

READ MORE: Cops find hundreds of illegal guns in ‘Safe Neighborhoods’ crackdown

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Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.

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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