Michigan ‘red flag’ gun reform plan heads to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
- ‘Red flag’ law would let a judge order temporary gun seizures if owner was deemed a threat to themselves or others
- It’s the final piece of a three-pronged gun safety reform package backed by Democrats
- Effort opposed by gun rights groups, legislative Republicans
Michigan Democrats finalized the last piece of a three-part gun reform package Wednesday, sending ‘red flag’ legislation allowing courts to order gun seizures under certain circumstances to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her signature.
The legislation would create new “extreme risk protection orders” in state law that would allow a judge to order temporary confiscation of weapons if a person was deemed a significant threat to themselves or others.
Without debate, the Michigan Senate voted along party lines to give final approval to Senate Bill 83, which now heads to the governor’s desk, and also cleared a trio of House red flag bills over Republican objections.
Democrats argue red flag laws would help keep guns away from people who pose a legitimate threat.
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"We will never know if extreme risk protection orders would have prevented the MSU shooter, but we do know he was deeply troubled,” state Rep. Julie Brixie, D-Meridian Township, said during a recent House debate on the matter. “Simply having (this law) on the books will increase reporting of threatening behavior."
Opponents have said the plan violates the constitutional rights of gun owners, with some calling it a “gun grab” that sets a dangerous precedent and erodes due process rights.
Among other things, the legislation requires “clear and convincing” evidence that a gun owner poses a threat if that individual is not notified or present for an emergency court hearing over a confiscation request.
But in other cases in which the respondent is notified or present at a hearing, only a “preponderance of evidence” would be required.
The proposals are similar to “red flag” laws in 19 other states, including Florida, where a Republican governor signed the gun confiscation measure in 2018 after a teen gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
A Bridge Michigan review of red flag laws in other states found the laws are rarely enforced, and enforcement varies widely by state and even from county to county.
The Michigan bills would allow certain people — family members, current and ex-spouses, dating partners, police and mental health professionals — to petition a judge for an extreme risk protection order.
Under the legislation, a person seeking an extreme risk protection order against an adult could file in any Michigan county, regardless of where the gun owner lives. The judge would then have up to 24 hours to determine whether the gun owner poses an imminent risk to themselves or others before ordering police to notify the individual and give them 24 hours to surrender the weapons prior to confiscation.
Republican Reps. Graham Filler, R-Duplain Township, and Andrew Fink, R-Adams Township, wrote in a Bridge Michigan opinion column that the proposal as written leaves little room for gun owners to defend themselves if vengeful exes or family members seek out an order against them.
“The standard for determining the risk posed by a gun-owner is unclear at best and dangerously low at worst,” the two lawmakers wrote. “A judge may use a statement by an ex-spouse or the mere attempt to purchase a gun as grounds to issue an (extreme risk protection order.)”
The ‘red flag’ proposal is the final step in Michigan Democrats’ initial plans to address gun violence. Last week, Whitmer signed legislation to establish “safe storage” laws and universal background checks, calling the measures a “commonsense” approach to deter gun violence.
She did so at Michigan State University’s Spartan Stadium two months after a gunman on campus killed three students and injured five others before killing himself.
Democrats say the legislation is their first step in an ongoing fight to prevent gun violence.
“Gun violence is a scourge that is unique to this country, and that is why we are taking action,” Whitmer said last week while signing safe storage and background check bills into law. “We don't have to live like this.
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