Whitmer wants "red flag" laws, "universal" background checks, and more

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told lawmakers on Wednesday that the “time for only thoughts and prayers is over”… and now it’s apparently open season on the Second Amendment rights of residents.


While Democrats hold slim majorities in both legislative chambers, Whitmer called on them to impose a number of new restrictions on legal gun owners, though her legislative wish list did not include a ban on so-called assault weapons, as we’ve seen in a number of other blue states this year.

First: mandating universal background checks. Second: implementing safe storage laws to make sure kids don’t get their hands on guns.

The proposals are something one lawmaker said is necessary.

“Absolutely necessary in the state of Michigan,” said State Rep. John Fitzgerald, D-Wyoming. “Law-abiding citizens who own firearms need to take the necessary steps, who are already taking the necessary steps, to protect their firearms in their homes.”

Finally, the governor wants red flag laws, keeping guns out of the hands of people deemed dangerous.

News 8 asked new Senate Minority Leader Sen. Aric Nesbitt, R-Porter Township, for his position. He said he wants more freedom and less government, but there’s bipartisan work that can be done.

“I think it’s important to look that she talks about freedom and openness, yet she goes ahead and doesn’t trust free people,” Nesbitt said. “I think there’s a lot of issues that are out there that we can come together on and actually invest and expanding mental health.”

Unfortunately lawmakers don’t need to “come together” in order to pass these new gun control measures, at least on a bipartisan basis. If the Democratic caucus follows Whitmer’s marching orders they’ve got the numbers to approve each and every restriction that the governor demanded during her address, and she made it abundantly clear that these laws are some of her top priorities.


The political climate for Whitmer in 2023 is vastly different from a year ago.

In January 2022, COVID was surging again, Whitmer had to work with a Republican-controlled Legislature and she was on the heels of a reelection campaign. Now, Whitmer has been reelected, the pandemic has waned and Democrats control both chambers of the Michigan Legislature for the first time in decades.

Whitmer took the opportunity to introduce two progressive topics that were absent from her 2021 and 2022 speeches – guns and free preschool.

Whitmer mentioned “firearm” or “gun” nine times in Wednesday’s address, while “preschool” had 11 mentions. Both had zero mentions in the past two years.

Whitmer mentioned three other states in her speech: Florida, Indiana and Ohio.

She said Michigan needs to have gun laws at least as strict as Indiana and Florida. And Whitmer said she wants to win businesses and people away from states like Ohio and Indiana, which are trying to restrict peoples’ reproductive freedoms.

Now, Indiana and Florida both have “red flag” laws, which Whitmer supports, but Indiana also has permitless carry on the books and Florida is likely to follow suit this year. You think Whitmer’s going to jump on board that particular bandwagon?

Yeah, me neither. But Whitmer was pretty smart in pointing to a couple of red states with “red flag” laws on the books, rather than admitting that the blueprint she really wants to follow can be found in places like California and New Jersey. She’s not trying to cast herself as the Newsom of the Midwest, though her anti-gun philosophy is much closer to the California governor than, say, Ron DeSantis.


I think that helps to explain why she didn’t bring up an “assault weapons” ban in her State of the State speech as well. Even with Democrats in control of both chambers of the legislature, an outright ban would be a dicey political proposition for the governor and some of those newly-elected state lawmakers. Now Whitmer can at least claim to be the “moderate” voice for gun control efforts while Democrats and the House can still try to advance a gun ban bill on their own. If one were to pass, I have no doubt she’d eagerly sign it despite not mentioning a ban in her SoS address on Wednesday. The bills she outlined this week represent a floor for the gun prohibition lobby, not a ceiling, and this is just the opening salvo in a much bigger attack on a fundamental civil right.


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