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Michigan to Become 21st State to Enact Red Flag Laws

The state’s red flag complaint law went into effect on Tuesday. It will allow residents to seek temporary removal of firearms from at-risk individuals by obtaining an extreme risk protection order.

a person holding a sign that says "Say their names" and "MSU Strong"
More than 1,000 Michigan State University students and concerned Michigan residents joined a sit-in protest on Monday, Feb. 20, 2023 at the Capitol in Lansing, one week after three students were killed and five others injured during a mass shooting at the university.
(Jake May |
As the state marks the one year anniversary of a shooting that claimed three lives at Michigan State University, it also marks something many Michiganders have long anticipated: a change in firearm policy.

In the weeks following the MSU mass shooting, Democrats – which took control of both the legislature and governorship for the first time in four decades, beginning January 2023 – quickly changed the state’s gun laws. Those changes go into effect Tuesday, Feb. 13, per legislative rules.

Here’s what that means for firearm owners in Michigan:

Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) Now in Action

Michigan will become the 21st state to enact what is more commonly known as ‘red flag’ laws. Under this change, Michiganders will be able to seek temporary removal of firearms from at-risk individuals by obtaining an extreme risk protection order, the formal name for a red flag complaint.

A family member, current or former partner, mental health professional or other eligible petitioner would have to file a complaint using forms created by Michigan’s State Court Administrative Office, as ordered by the state Supreme Court.

The complaint would have to show whether the person at issue, called the respondent, can “reasonably be expected within the near future to intentionally or unintentionally seriously physically injure himself, herself or another individual by possessing a firearm,” per the bill’s final language.

Though experts say abuse of the process is rare, the package also accounts for punitive use of risk protection orders.

A person could be punished by up to 93 days in jail, a fine of not more than $500, or both for a first time offense. That escalates to up to four years in prison, a fine of not more than $2,000, or both, for a second offense and up to five years in prison, a fine of not more than $20,000, or both for a third or subsequent offense.

Depending on the individual situation, the restrained person would be required to either immediately or voluntarily relinquish guns within 24-hours of a judge issuing an order. An order would typically last for one year.

During that time, a law enforcement agency would possess the person’s firearms and ammunition identified in the initial risk protection order as well as any later discovered in the person’s home.

No fewer than three months after a judge grants an order, a person could ask a court to, or a court itself, could extend the order for an additional year should enough reason exist. Conversely, a judge could end the order early if there is sufficient evidence risk protection measures are no longer needed.

Safe Storage of Guns is Now Mandatory

Michiganders will also be required to safely store firearms when minors are present. A person could be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by not more than 93 days in jail, a fine of no more than $500, or both, if a minor obtains the firearm due to improper storage.

Additional fines and fees are then prescribed for an adult if the minor hurt another with an unsafely stored firearm. These increase should a minor kill another with the obtained firearm.

To encourage the purchase of gun safety devices, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also signed off on two bills that amend Michigan’s sales and use tax to exempt trigger and barrel locks, safes, lock boxes and other items designated to enhance home firearm safety.

Gun Ban for Domestic Violence Convictions

Those convicted of a misdemeanor involving domestic violence could see a potential 8-year gun ban. The law, which Whitmer signed on Nov. 20, would bar a person from having, using, selling or transporting a gun – as well as ammunition – until certain stipulations are met.

However, unlike federal law, those convicted of domestic abuse in Michigan would get their gun ownership rights restored following however long their ban lasts.

A misdemeanor involving domestic violence would include a host of charges, including assault and battery, vulnerable adult abuse, stalking, fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and willful/malicious destruction of the personal property of another person.

The crime victim would have to fit a certain profile, including one of the following:

  • They are the convicted person’s spouse or former spouse
  • They have or had a dating relationship with the convicted person
  • They have or had a child in common with the convicted person
  • They are a resident or former resident of the convicted person’s household
  • They are the victim’s parent or guardian

Domestic violence would be defined more thoroughly so only those convicted of the crime will be impacted by the state’s gun ban.

The bill package additionally expands the list of crimes that already keep a person from possessing a firearm for three to five years following the completion of their sentence.

Universal Background Checks to Take Place for All Gun Sales

A background check was previously required only when purchasing a handgun in Michigan. On Tuesday, that background check provisions will now apply in the purchasing of all firearms within the state.

This will not apply to guns bought prior to the bill taking effect, and additional legislation outlines sentencing guidelines and fines that occur should this law be violated.

©2024 Advance Local Media LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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