Whitmer’s Smart Approach to Gun Control in Michigan

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Make no mistake readers, this is not praise for Whitmer’s policies. It is an acknowledgement that she is avoiding a great deal of the criticism and scrutiny that Illinois, New York, and California are receiving for their states’ policies by taking a more nuanced approach.

On February 13th Michigan will have new control slotted into place. These include safe storage mandates, Red Flag/ERPO updates, registration of long guns and Universal Background Checks, and an update to misdemeanor domestic violence conviction language.

MCRGO summarized the new safe storage rules thusly,

  • Firearms being stored or left unattended must be unloaded and locked with a locking device or stored in a locked box or container if it is reasonably known that a person under 18 is or is likely to be present on the premises.
  • If the minor possesses or exhibits the firearm in a public place or possesses or exhibits the firearm in the presence of another person in a careless, reckless, or threatening manner: a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to 93 days or a fine of up to $500, or both.
  • If the minor discharges the firearm and injures themselves or another individual: a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to five years or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
  • If the minor discharges the firearm and inflicts serious impairment of a body function on themselves or another individual: a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years or a fine of up to $7,500, or both.
  • If the minor discharges the firearm and inflicts death on themselves or another individual: a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to 15 years or a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
  • Exemption: A minor obtains a firearm with the permission of their parent or guardian and uses or possesses the firearm under the direct supervision of their parent or guardian, or any individual at least 18 years old who is authorized by the minor’s parent or guardian, during the minor’s employment, ranching or farming, target practice or instruction in the safe use of a firearm.
  • Exemption: A minor obtains a firearm with the permission of their parent or guardian and uses or possesses the firearm for the purposes of hunting, if the minor is in compliance with all applicable hunting laws. 
  • Exemption: A minor obtains a firearm through their unlawful entry of premises or the motor vehicle where the firearm has been stored.
  • Exemption: A minor obtains a firearm while lawfully acting in self-defense or defense of another.
  • Firearms safety devices are exempted from Michigan’s sales tax and use tax beginning 90 days after February 13, 2024 through December 31, 2024.

The detailed official legislative analysis of this bill package can be found HERE.

Safe storage education and mandates are gun control with the strongest correlation to efficacy. This makes them the easiest rules to encourage implementation, depending upon how stringent the implementation and language is.

This ruleset was undoubtedly shaped by the Lake Orion school shooting, and the parents culpability in that event. While a parent, guardian, or responsible adult cannot read minds any more than next person, it will now be a misdemeanor if a minor obtains and brandishes and a felony if a minor obtains and injures or kills someone. The exemptions are unlawful entry (theft), supervised use, and lawful self defense.

This puts a tremendous liability on owners with minor children, minor home occupants, or visitors, to properly store and lock their firearms. That in and of itself is not a bad thing, the problems arise when it comes to presuming what is secure enough for firearms and the storage of defensively oriented firearms.

Must a defensive firearm always be on the person of a responsible adult in the home? Can a home defense firearm be stored loaded but locked up if the adult isn’t home but a minor is? If the minor has some manner of access to defensive firearms for legitimate lawful defense of themselves or others that does give them access for any other reason too, how is that reconciled?

The policy isn’t a catch-22, but it isn’t far from it as the exception for self defense means that the minor did in fact have some form of unsupervised access to the firearm at some level and proving that a minor had access for self defense but did not have access for unlawful purposes is going to be a herculean task. That task leaves Michigan residents with only full secure storage, no access except fully supervised, as the only defensible legal option if a minor accesses their firearm. Saying that firearm access was for defense is unlikely to prove any defense at all in court.

This leaves minors with access that puts the owners at very high risk or no access even though defense is an acceptable exception. That is the damned if you do, damned if you don’t catch-22. It is one of those situations that if it is never a problem it will never be a problem, but if it becomes a problem suddenly you should have known better and its now dramatically your fault as the owner/guardian. And all of that risk sits in the head and on the shoulders of the minors, while the penalty sits upon the adults.

Read the full article here

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