Whitmer signs "universal" background checks, gun storage bills into law

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed two pieces of gun control into law on Thursday, with another bill to establish a “red flag” firearms seizure law likely to be approved by the state legislature’s narrow Democratic majority as early as this afternoon.


Surrounded by anti-gun activists and lawmakers, Whitmer declared the measures to be “common sense gun policy”, whil

Sen. Rosemary Bayer, D-Keego Harbor, let out a scream of “finally” when taking the lectern to speak prior to the bill signing.

She had been one of the driving forces behind safe storage legislation following the shooting at Oxford High School in 2021, given the school was in her district, though those bills never moved out of the chamber.

Apologizing to advocates for the wait, and for further shootings that had occurred since Oxford, Bayer promised that the actions taken Thursday were just the first step.

“I am thrilled that we’re here today to finally take this first step forward to address this horrible epidemic that we have, gun violence, and that’s taking away our friends and our family members and our children,” Bayer said. “Finally, we are changing the law in Michigan to make sure that there is a background check on every gun purchase not just handguns, and keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.”

If you believe that, I have a lovely bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario that I’d like to sell you for a bargain basement price.

As Bayer herself noted, Michigan law already requires background checks on all handgun transfers; something that violent criminals across the state routinely ignore when illegally acquiring their weapons. The new universal background check law will be an imposition and an inconvenience for legal gun owners, but it’s not going to deter a single criminal.


Also now law in Michigan is the requirement to safely store firearms when minors are present. A person could be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by not more than 93 days in jail, a fine of no more than $500, or both, if a minor obtains the firearm due to improper storage.

Additional fines and fees are then prescribed for an adult if the minor hurt another with an unsafely stored firearm. These increase should a minor kill another with the obtained firearm.

This measure was prompted by the shootings at Oxford High School and the actions of the shooter’s parents, who allegedly bought the pistol for their teenage son and allowed him unfettered access to it despite concerns over his mental health. But under existing Michigan law the parents have been charged with felony manslaughter charges, which tells me that there are already plenty of laws on the books to charge parents or adult guardians who act with disregard for their kids safety. Frankly, the misdemeanor offense crafted by anti-gun Democrats is likely to be used as plea bargain bait more than anything else, but it also has the potential to ensnare responsible gun owners by forcing them to comply with a one-size-fits-all storage mandate that could leave them vulnerable or unable to protect themselves if they need to quickly access their firearm for self-defense.
As bad as these new laws are, the red flag bill under consideration is even worse. Democrats on Wednesday amended the legislation in a number of ways, and while one of the amendments is a modest improvement to the fundamentally flawed bill, another would make it far easier for petitioners to bring their case before a friendly judge.
Under the language passed Wednesday through the House Judiciary Committee, one of the biggest due process changes was to increase the standard of proof needed to gain an extreme risk protection. If an emergency hearing is held where the individual targeted isn’t notified or present, the requester must now show “clear and convincing” proof that the individual is a threat to himself, herself or others. Under previous versions, the bar was lowered to a “preponderance of the evidence.”
If the person targeted received a notice about the hearing, the burden of proof would remain at a “preponderance of the evidence.” The burden of proof for individuals to show they aren’t a risk and have the order removed also would remain at the lower “preponderance of evidence bar.”
Another change would allow an individual to file the petition in any circuit court in Michigan, regardless of where the petitioner or defendant live, which prompted worries about forum shopping and the ability of a defendant to respond in a court on the other side of the state.
The policy, Hillsdale Republican state Rep. Andrew Fink said, is “begging for forum shopping.”
“You can go to a county that has one circuit judge that tends to grant these things and file it there, and the judge can move venue if he or she wants to but is not obligated to,” Fink said.
Sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen, though Democrats may try to amend the bill once more before a final House vote takes place. The House version is also different than the “red flag” bill approved by the state Senate, so those changes will have to be reconciled before the measure can be sent to Whitmer for her signature.
My guess is that Democrats will reach a compromise that will satisfy them, but whether the final version of the “red flag” law will stand up to court scrutiny is another question entirely. Sadly, I don’t think there’s any doubt about the actual impact of these laws on public safety in the state. By focusing on legal gun owners and not violent criminals, the Democratic majority is making Michigan a more hospitable place for criminals… and one far more hostile to those lawfully exercising their Second Amendment rights.

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