Michigan House OKs gun storage bills sought after deadly Oxford shooting

Tribune Content Agency

LANSING, Mich. — The Democratic-led Michigan House on Wednesday approved legislation that would implement safe storage requirements for firearms in order to prevent youth from accessing a firearm.

The legislation, which passed out of House committee Wednesday morning then underwent several changes before the full chamber’s evening vote, passed by varying margins with the support of several Republican lawmakers.

The bill package reflected a long-sought change to Michigan’s gun law, one that gained momentum, but didn’t get a vote, after the Oxford High School shooting. In the Nov. 30, 2021 shooting, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley took a handgun from his parents’ home to school and killed four students and injured seven others.

Democrats in the House’s majority party prioritized the bills after three Michigan State University students were killed in a Feb. 13 mass shooting on campus.

Rep. Sharon MacDonell, the Troy Democrat who sponsored one of the bills, said the legislation was a “crucial step” to preventing gun violence and decreasing youth suicides.

“Saving lives is why I support these bills,” MacDonell said. “We must act now. I know saving lives matter to all of us in this chamber so I ask every single one of us to vote yes on these bills to protect our children.”

Rep. Gina Johnsen, R-Lowell, argued the legislation would require homeowners seeking to protect their home from intruders to waste valuable time in unlocking or loading a firearm they might use in their defense.

“It is not the job of the state government to regulate my safely, legally owned property I use in the privacy of my own home,” Johnsen said.

The House previously passed legislation implementing universal background checks and registration for all firearm sales. The chamber still plans to pass bills that would implement extreme risk protection orders, or a so-called red flag law, that would allow family members to petition a judge to remove a firearm temporarily from an individual deemed to be a risk to himself or others.

The safe storage bills passed Wednesday would require someone who has a minor in their home or the reasonable expectation of having a minor in their home to store their firearms safely. The firearms, under the law, would need to be unloaded and locked with a trigger-locking mechanism or stored within a locked storage container.

If a minor obtains the firearm and the individual is found to have not complied with the safe storage law, the gun owner could face a misdemeanor charged of up to 93 days in jail or a $500 fine.

The penalties increase based on how the firearm is used. If the minor injures an individual with an illegally stored firearm, the penalty increases to a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison or a fine up to $5,000. The penalty increases to 10 years in prison and a $7,500 fine if the minor seriously impairs someone with an improperly stored device and increases again to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if the weapon is used to kill someone.

There are exemptions for minors who obtain a gun with a parent or guardian’s permission and use it under the supervision of someone over the age 18 for ranching, farming, hunting or target practice.

The law requires firearm dealers to provide a brochure or pamphlet about firearm storage rules, the risks of firearms and warning of the penalties for failing to comply with safe storage laws.

The House, like the Senate before them, changed direction a few times Wednesday on whether to remove liability protections for firearm manufacturers.

A version passed out of committee Wednesday with the manufacturer liability protections removed was amended on the House floor later in the day to add the liability protections back in. The removal of the liability protections had been pushed for by the Michigan Association of Justice.

The back and forth followed similar action in the Senate, where a Senate committee deleted liability protection for manufacturers March 9, then added the protections back in before a floor vote.

A 2005 federal law already provides liability protections for firearms manufacturers, but lawmakers said the repeal at the state level was meant to prepare for a possible repeal of the federal law.

The Gifford Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence had argued earlier this month that, with a repeal of state-level manufacturer liability protections, victims might still be able to use loopholes in the federal immunity law to pursue damages.