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Michigan Democrats move to tighten gun rules after MSU shootings

capitol building
Michigan Democratic senators introduced 11 gun safety and reform bills on Thursday and vow swift action on them. (Shutterstock)
  • Michigan Senate Democrats roll out gun reform following Monday’s mass shooting
  • They want to pass universal background checks, safe storage requirements and ‘red flag’ laws
  • One conservative group claims the package is unconstitutional and threatens gun rights

March 20: Do red flag gun laws work? Answer unclear as Michigan eyes reform

LANSING — Michigan Senate Democrats on Thursday introduced nearly a dozen bills to tighten gun regulations, three days after a shooter killed three students and injured five at Michigan State University.

The package of bills includes universal background checks for gun purchases, safe storage requirements for gun owners and so-called red flag laws allowing judges to temporarily confiscate a gun from someone posing a risk to others or themselves. 

The bills are long-standing priorities of Michigan Democrats, who have pledged to advance the legislation after taking control of the state Legislature in January. They announced plans Tuesday to fast track the legislation following the deadly shooting Monday. 


Anthony McRae, a 43-year-old Lansing resident, opened fire at 8:18 p.m. Monday, killing three students and injuring five others at MSU.  Police say he walked off campus after the shooting and killed himself when confronted by the police late Monday roughly four miles north of campus.

The shooter had a history of gun charges and mental health issues, according to court records, police press releases and family and neighbor interviews. A note indicating threats to several businesses and Michigan and out-of-state schools was found in his pocket, police said

“Monday night was the toughest part of my professional career,” Senate Majority Floor Leader Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, said during the Thursday legislative session.

“What can I do to best represent a community that is in pain?” he asked. “They don't want to be told what can be done or not be done. …They want to see some type of action.”

But conservative lawmakers and advocacy groups have long resisted gun reform backed by Democrats.

“Anti-gun Democrats wasted no time introducing their unconstitutional rights shredding legislation,” said Brenden Boudreau, executive director for conservative group Great Lakes Gun Rights. 

“The sad truth is deranged murderers who commit pre-meditated murder are not halted by gun confiscation, registration, and lock up your safety laws. They willingly violate these regulations while good Michiganders who lawfully own firearms pay the price for failed gun control policies.”

Studies on the effect of such gun laws indicate they help reduce gun-related injuries and deaths, but some scholars have argued more time and data are needed to draw conclusions. 

Background checks, safe storage, ‘red flag’ laws

The 11 bills introduced Thursday cover three areas of gun reform deemed top priorities by Democrats.

Senate Bills 76-78, which are similar to the three-bill package Democrats championed last year, would expand the state’s licensing process required only for pistols to all kinds of firearms. 

Federal law requires background checks for anyone who buys a gun through a federally licensed gun dealer and prohibits people with a criminal record or otherwise ineligible to own a gun from buying firearms. But only 40 percent of guns sold in America are done through a federally licensed dealer. 

Thirteen states and Washington, D.C., have universal background check laws.

Another set of bills introduced Thursday would require gun owners to store their firearms in a secure location, strengthen penalties on those who don’t and offer sales and use tax incentives for safety devices to encourage safe storage.

At least 30 states and D.C. have child access prevention laws, according to The Washington Post. Eight states and D.C. have laws mandating secure gun storage, according to pro-gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Legacy of Oxford

Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, said the legislation could have helped prevent the Oxford High School shooting, where a 15-year-old teen gunman killed four and wounded seven in November 2021. Police said the gunman’s father purchased the gun for his son as a Christmas gift and failed to secure it from his son despite numerous red flags.

Multiple students who survived the Oxford shooting are now MSU shooting survivors. Emma Riddle, a former student at Oxford High School and now at MSU, tweeted Monday: “When will this end?”

“We have to address this.” Moss said, adding he feels “sick” that some students have had to survive two mass shootings in the past 15 months. “And the previous majority’s remedy (in the Legislature) was doing absolutely nothing. That’s not an answer.”

Additionally, Senate Democrats introduced extreme risk protection order laws, also known as “red flag” laws. The laws would empower judges to seize firearms if they deem a person a danger to themselves and others.

The law has been adopted in both liberal and conservative states. In Florida, red flag laws were adopted following the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman walked into a high school and killed 17 students and faculty members.

It’s theoretically possible an extreme risk protection order could have allowed law enforcement to seize McRae’s gun before he fired on campus, April Zeoli, policy core director of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention at the University of Michigan.

“If he had leaked his intentions to commit the shooting or behaved in a way that let other people know that he was dangerous … then it’s possible that law enforcement would have found out and would have been able to take this to a civil court and have his gun rights temporarily suspended,” she said.

Lauren Gibbons contributed reporting.

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