Where Michigan governor candidates stand on ‘red flag’ gun bills

Michigan’s gubernatorial candidates weigh in on whether they would support or oppose legislation that would allow police to seize firearms from people deemed in danger of committing violence by courts.

Last week, a mass shooting at a Florida high school once again renewed a national conversation about what can be done to prevent future tragedies.

One solution offered by lawmakers around the country is a “red flag” law. These laws, already in place in five states, make it possible for courts to order law enforcement to temporarily seize weapons from people who are considered a danger to themselves or to others.

Related: Will Florida school shooting nudge Michigan to pass ‘red flag’ gun laws?
Detroit News, March 7: Gov. Rick Snyder eyes ‘red flag’ gun safety laws for Michigan
Politico: Gov. Rick Snyder: 'I don't think having more guns is a good thing'

Michigan is one of 18 states that have proposed similar bills: House Bills 4706 and 4707, introduced by Democratic Reps. Robert Wittenberg of Huntington Woods, Jon Hoadley of Kalamazoo, and Stephanie Chang of Detroit in June.

Bridge asked all of the declared candidates for governor whether they would support or oppose this bill if they were in office and why. Their responses are edited for clarity and length.


Attorney General Bill Schuette: NO POSITION YET

"America is facing a mental health crisis and we must find ways to provide resources to help those who are hurting or may hurt others. In particular, school violence was a major concern for Attorney General Schuette when he took office, and that is why he worked with the Michigan State Police and schools to create Michigan’s OK2SAY school safety initiative," spokesman John Sellek wrote in an email. "In the bigger picture, Attorney General Schuette also has deep concerns with the general coarsening of our culture, where casual violence and killing is treated as mere entertainment, especially when it is directed at our youth. We have not seen these bills but we will look at them as we review all the factors that may play a role in finding more solutions, like OK2SAY, to stop violence."

March 9 update: Schuette tells Gongwer news service that "The due process issue is of great concern to me," in regards to "red flag" laws. "The first focus ought to be mental health and mental illness," he said.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley: WOULD NOT RESPOND

Calley did not respond to Bridge’s requests for comment Monday and Tuesday on “red flag” legislation.

“Brian supports the right to bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment,” according to his website. “Law-abiding citizens have the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”

State Sen. Patrick Colbeck: NO POSITION YET

Colbeck’s spokeswoman, AnneMarie Schieber Dykstra, said in an email Monday he needs to review the bill in more depth before giving a definitive answer.

“Because it deals with a constitutional right, he would have to see what thresholds would be in place before restricting it. He’d also have to consider whether such a policy would actually eliminate or reduce mass shootings. It serves no one to create a law that gives the public a false sense of security,” she wrote. “This is an issue that needs to be vigorously debated ... there needs to be a solution.”  


Spokesman Dave Doyle said Hines didn’t get a chance to read the bill, so he couldn’t comment on the legislation in particular.

“It’s his understanding that local police already have that authority to confiscate someone’s guns if they’re deemed a threat and that individual could get their weapons back if they petitioned a court,” Doyle said.

Earl Lackie: OPPOSES

“I have not been able to read through everything thoroughly but what I have read it appears to be a knee-jerk reaction by Democrats to remove guns from citizens ‘suspected’ of being bad people,” Lackie wrote in an email. “The problem is not with the guns it is with the people that can get there (sic) hands on one that have a mental instability. First we need to address the mental health issue here in Michigan that is one of the big issues I plan on taking on as governor.”


Gretchen Whitmer: SUPPORTS

"Our law enforcement are sworn to protect our communities, and we must give them the tools they need to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of those who would do harm,” Whitmer wrote in an email. “I support this bill, it gives another tool to law enforcement and families to prevent tragedy."

Shri Thanedar: SUPPORTS

“(Shri) is pro-second amendment, he believes in the constitution,” spokesman TJ Bucholz said. “But in some cases a red flag law like this one, if implemented in Michigan, would prevent tragedy. It would be temporary until an individual could get help or law enforcement could intervene. It gives law enforcement more nonviolent options in table. He would support that and if he were governor he would sign that into law.”

Abdul El-Sayed: SUPPORTS

“This bill is a strong first step toward getting guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” El-Sayed wrote in an email. “But we have to go further — we need comprehensive, common sense gun reform that puts our kids and communities first. That means closing loopholes when it comes to background checks; prohibiting the sale of guns that are meant for a theatre of war; keeping guns from domestic abusers; allowing law enforcement to take guns from those who become prohibited purchasers because of violent crimes or domestic abuse they commit, or institutionalization; and empowering communities to stand up when they know someone in their community shouldn’t have a gun.”

Bill Cobbs: SUPPORTS

“I am a veteran, former police officer and a gun owner and I support having a means of removing firearms when there is a demonstrated threat to the health and welfare of citizens,” Cobbs wrote in an email. “The notion that the second amendment guarantees the right to bear arms does not negate responsible gun ownership or state intervention when there are legitimate concerns for the public welfare.”


Todd Schleiger (Independent): OPPOSES

“(The bill is) a direct attack on our Second Amendment rights and I don’t agree with that portion of it,” Schleiger said. “We need to take care of these mental health issues, that’s what this is all breaking down to now. ... We have plenty of gun control laws on the books. It’s just a matter of enforcing them and abiding by them. … That doesn’t mean that I agree with the selling of AR-15s. If they’re going to regulate something they need to regulate the military style weapons.”

Jennifer Kurland (Green Party): SUPPORTS

“It’s absolutely a good idea to have some form of gun seizure for people who are at risk to themselves and to others. We need to be sure we’re protecting people,” Kurland said. “We really need to go further, we need laws that require locks on guns in the home to ensure that we have proper gun safety. … We need to talk about mental health as well as gun control as well as domestic violence all in the same conversation. We can’t leave something out because it’s not a good political talking point today.”

Keith Butkovich (Natural Law): OPPOSES

“Citizens have a right to keep and bear arms,” Butkovich wrote in an email. “Having an officer or family member determine if someone is a danger to themselves or others is not the solution, as these people only go by information given to them or by limited observations. … Their opinions could be made hastily and be incorrect, causing someone to lose their right of a weapon. Also, these people may have a predetermined opinion of this individual, which could also sway an opinion. I believe in maximum liberty, so long as you do not harm anyone else.”

John Tatar (Libertarian): OPPOSES

“I would not support any such bill. This system of government no longer serves the people,” Tatar wrote in an email. “The Courts in this country are corrupt and I am no longer convinced that they seek ‘justice’ i.e. seek the truth. … If we give up our guns or have them controlled then in a matter of short time that we be our faith under the control of a despotic government such as the despots of other nations. … It is our tool to protect our liberty! We must never give up the right to bear arms.”

Jeff Wood (Libertarian): OPPOSES

“I would not support any law that infringes upon the right of Michiganders to keep and bear arms. I would vehemently oppose any such ‘red flag’ law,” Wood wrote in an email.

Ryan Henry Cox (Independent): NO POSITION YET

Cox said he could not comment directly on the bills because he does not yet have enough knowledge on them, but offered thoughts on gun control legislation in general.

“We are empassioned to end the awfulness of such violence, but we cannot simply ignore those who raise concerns over how new preventative gun-violence measures may infringe upon gun rights and ownership protections,” Cox wrote in a message. “This is an issue set so important that a functional bill that everyone can get behind and passed soon is more important than an ideal one given the increasing rate and casualty numbers become more and more frequent. We need something better than we have and we need it now.”

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Tue, 02/20/2018 - 6:00pm

Supporting these laws is a no-brainer. Not everyone can flag you, only those who know you, any conditions you may have or anything that may not be in the public domain as of yet. A parent or guardian could have weapons taken away from a child with mental health issues.

Sherry A Wells
Wed, 02/21/2018 - 8:38am

Excellent that Bridge included ALL known candidates for Governor, including the Green Party of Michigan one, Jennifer V. Kurland. Greens do not take any corporate or PAC campaign contributions, so we certainly don't take NRA money.

Lola Johnson
Wed, 02/21/2018 - 8:43am

What a bunch of weasels. Take a stand, for goodness' sake. At least the Democrats and the Libertarians are willing to stand up for their beliefs. The Republicans talk in circles and twist themselves up into knots to avoid giving an answer. We get the message. If elected, every Republican will do exactly as his party leader tells him. Telling us you haven't done your homework is not an excuse.

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 9:30am

In an age where we can have credit card approval in a matter of minutes, why can't we have some kind of screening process for mentally illness? There are always outliers but it seems these mass shooters have a fairly consistent profile of across the board dysfunctionality, (is that a word?), in education, career and relationships. Not to mention they're almost always males under 30. Then these Red Flag procedures mentioned in article could be used as an affirmation or negative affirmation for those screened out. While some may disagree for Second amendment absolutist reasons, this keeps the solution focused on the person not the inanimate gun.

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 10:27am

Interesting picture at the top of this story. Not one of the guns shown looks like an "assault" rifle. My guess is that every one of them will fire just as fast as an AR-15 or other so called "assault" rifle, could have a "large" magazine, and could come chambered for the same 5.56mm NATO round used in the AR-15. Are the rifles shown in the picture the ones intended to be removed from dangerous people? And will they be removed from the household that a dangerous person lives in (remember that the Sandy Hook shooter stole the rifle from his mother). Lots of questions, and very little thought seems to have gone into this issue other than "we need to remove all guns from society".

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 8:46am

Bridge shows typical pathetic journalistic ignorance here. Picture shows a picture of a bunch of Air Rifle pellet guns, not considered Firearms! But evidently everyone there is too ignorant on the subject to recognize it.

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 5:11pm

Would you like to be a Black Teacher holding a handgun when the Cops show up at school shooting?

Susan M.
Tue, 02/27/2018 - 11:34pm

Really Schuette?!? I'm disappointed, you have an opinion about everything.