Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist (D), Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D) and Speaker Joe Tate (D) said Michigan’s new Democratic majority is ready to move gun control legislation with or without Republican support.
Two weeks after a gunman killed three students on the campus of Michigan State University, the three top Democrats detailed their efforts Wednesday on a call hosted by anti-gun violence groups, including Everytown for Gun Safety.
“We’re in a unique position to do something about this right now,” Gilchrist said. “It is our moment to act and we will.”
In the midterm elections, Democrats won control of the Michigan Senate for the first time since 1984 and the House for the first time since 2008. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) was also re-elected, giving the party a state government trifecta for the first time in four decades.
The legislature is considering a package of 11 related bills that would expand background checks, require safe storage, and impose a red flag law, which allows law enforcement and family members to ask a judge to remove guns from someone deemed a danger to themselves or others.
Brinks said she is hopeful that some Republicans back the bills in the Senate but stressed that Democrats are ready to act alone.
“While we certainly hope that there’s bipartisan support for these efforts — we know they’re broadly popular among our constituents, gun owners, non-gun owners, Democrats and Republicans — we are prepared to move this with or without bipartisan support,” Brinks said.
She said the Senate would move the bills through committee and to the floor as soon as possible, while being careful to ensure the new laws would withstand lawsuits.
“We want to make sure that we’re doing this right and that these laws are well written and that they stand up to the scrutiny of any challenges in the future,” Brinks said.
In a brief interview last week, Brinks said lawmakers are keen to add more provisions, such as raising the age to purchase a firearm, which is 18 for a long gun and 21 for a handgun. But she said that the three policies of expanded background checks, safe storage and a red flag law covered by these 11 bills had the requisite support from the public, legislature and governor — and are the most likely to survive a court challenge.
Tate lamented inaction under previous Republican rule.
“So we want to move as quickly as possible, and we’re starting that process in the House with our committee hearings, so expect to see something soon in terms of a floor vote,” Tate said.
The House Judiciary Committee was scheduled to take testimony on the legislation Wednesday afternoon.
Beyond Michigan State, lawmakers also noted the November 2021 shooting at a high school in Oxford, north of Detroit, that left four students dead.
The call with the Democratic lawmakers came as two former members of the U.S. House, Republicans Fred Upton and Dave Trot, came out in support of the gun violence package.
“As strong supporters of the Second Amendment and proud Republicans, we feel it is our duty to come out in support of this legislation,” the two former lawmakers said in a release. “Students, educators, and parents in Michigan have suffered through multiple mass shootings in the past fifteen months, and Michiganders deserve action.”
Here is what is in the 11 bills under consideration:
SB0076 Expands background checks to long guns. Under Michigan law, gun transfers by private sellers (non-firearms dealers) are not subject to background checks in Michigan.
SB0077 Updates pistol penal code.
SB0078 Updates sentencing in penal code.
SB0079 Updates penalties for storing or leaving a firearm where a minor may access it. The bill sets a maximum of five years for an incident resulting in injury and 15 years for an incident resulting in death.
SB0080 Updates sentencing guidelines.
SB0081 Exempts firearm safety devices from sales tax beginning 90 days after enactment. Exempted devices include safes, lock boxes, trigger and barrel locks, and other items designed to enhance home firearm safety. Requires gun sellers to post written signs notifying customers that firearm safety devices are exempt from general sales and use tax.
SB0082 Exempts firearm safety devices from use tax beginning 90 days after enactment. Exempted devices include safes, lock boxes, trigger and barrel locks, and other items designed to enhance home firearm safety. Requires gun sellers to post written signs notifying customers that firearm safety devices are exempt from general sales and use tax.
SB0083 Establishes an extreme risk protection order act.
SB0084 Prohibits an individual who has an extreme risk protection order from purchasing a firearm.
SB0085 Updates sentencing guidelines for making a false statement in support of an extreme risk protection order.
SB0086 Outlines service of process for extreme risk protection order actions.