Michigan Democrats eye gun control after gaining control of state legislature

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

The midterms may not have been a terrible election cycle for gun owners overall, but there are definitely some exceptions. Michigan, for example, will now see Democrats in charge of the executive branch and both chambers of the state legislature for the first time in forty years, and though their margins are slim we’re already seeing signs that Democrats aren’t going to be modest about making changes to the state’s gun laws.

Co-Chair of the Michigan Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, state Sen. Jeremy Moss of Southfield, described the wins as being an affirmation “that it is time for a new majority” in Michigan.

“We ran a campaign on the issues that actually matter to the people in our state: reducing gun violence, protecting bodily autonomy, and securing voting rights for all Michigander,” Moss said in a statement. “Republicans instead doubled down on homophobia and transphobia and found their out-of-whack priorities soundly rejected by voters. This majority is a victory for everyone.”
…  With Democrats now in the proverbial drivers seat for at least the next two years at the legislative, gubernatorial, secretary of state, attorney general and state Supreme Court level, there’s not a lot stopping them from laying the groundwork to get done what is inevitably a laundry list four decades in the making.

I feel like I’ve seen this story before. Heck, I feel like I’ve lived through it, frankly. In 2019, Democrats in Virginia took control of both chambers of the state legislature for the first time in decades, though they possessed a narrow majority in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate. Those tight margins didn’t stop them from acting like they had a broad mandate to lurch to the left, and one of their first moves was to introduce more than a dozen gun control measures, including a ban on semi-automatic rifles.

It was a disastrous miscalculation on their part.

In response to the flurry of anti-gun legislation, more than 100 counties and towns across the state declared themselves to be Second Amendment sanctuaries. Tens of thousands of gun owners showed up at the state capitol for Lobby Day, but Democrats continued their anti-gun efforts. Ultimately Gov. Ralph Northam’s gun ban was shot down thanks to opposition from every Republican state senator and two rural Democrats, but the damage to the party had already been done. In 2021, Republicans swept all statewide offices and regained the majority in the House of Delegates in large part because of the increased turnout in rural counties where ticked off gun owners had been waiting for two years to send anti-gun lawmakers packing.

Now it seems like Michigan Democrats are getting ready to make that same mistake. The party is projected to have a two-seat majority in both the state House and Senate and seems likely to govern like they have a supermajority, though some political analysts in the state believe that Democrats will be more cautious with their agenda.

But to assume this now means Democrats will carte blanche begin making changes at the state level without any input from Republican counterparts is an error said Jarrett Skorup, senior director of marketing and communications for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Due to the razor thin margins of victory, it will be incumbent upon Democrats to still work across the aisle to achieve forward progress on legislative issues. The party can only lose one vote in the Senate – with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist serving as the Democratic tie-breaker, given he also presides over the upper chamber – and one in the House, lest in the lower chamber they end up in a 55-55 tied vote.

Yet, when asked what Democrats would even hit the ground running on that didn’t already inherently have some level of bipartisan support, such as raising Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit or cutting taxes for residents, Skorup was at something of a loss.

He offered potential changes to gun control or right to work laws in Michigan as something which could engender strife between the parties, but given that the other hot topic of the last two years – reproductive rights – was settled by the passage of Proposal 3 earlier this morning, Democrats could be entering into a legislature with an appetite to move bipartisan-backed reforms.

“Republicans controlled the legislature for more than a decade – they had eight years of full Republican control – and in that environment, there’s still a lot of things that very conservative members of their caucus did not get,” he said. “And, I suspect there’s a lot of things that very liberal members really want that they’re just not able to get because you can only lose one vote, right?”

I’m not buying it. Oh sure, the most vociferous anti-gun Democrats in the legislature may not get everything they ask for, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try. And if Whitmer starts twisting arms and tossing out carrots to those Democrats who may be reluctant to adopt a gun ban, “red flag” law, or raise the age to purchase a long gun from 18 to 21, most of them are going to go along. The sad reality is that even the most extreme gun control laws aren’t particularly controversial in the Democrat circles, and the gun control lobby will undoubtably view Lansing as fertile ground for their prohibitionist agenda.

Having witnessed what happened in Virginia, I think it would be a huge mistake for Michigan Democrats to go after the right to keep and bear arms, but I don’t think they’re going to pay attention to what I have to say. My advice to Michigan gun owners is to stay engaged and involved, start talking to your county commissioners and sheriffs, join state-level 2A organizations if you haven’t done so already, support the lawsuits that will follow the implentation of any new gun laws, and don’t give up or become disheartened. Virginia Democrats overreached on gun control two years ago, and if Democrats in Michigan are dumb enough to follow that same strategy Second Amendment advocates can ensure they’ll pay the same steep political price in the next election cycle.

A note from Cam: Now that the midterms are over, we need to look ahead to the threats gun owners face in Washington, D.C. and statehouses around the country, as well as support pro-Second Amendment officials and legislation to protect and secure our right to keep and bear arms. If you want real in-depth analysis and exclusive content and wish to support our mission, join BearingArms VIP today and use promo code VIPWEEK to receive 45% off your membership!