Gun Safety

What To Know About Michigan’s Landmark New Gun Control Laws

Months after a gunman killed three Michigan State University students, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed two major gun control laws into effect.

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On Thursday, April 13, roughly two months after a gunman killed three Michigan State University students and critically wounded five others, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a package of major gun control laws. The laws are aimed at preventing more gun violence in the state by regulating who can own a gun and outlining consequences for irresponsible gun owners who put kids at risk.

"Today we're taking common sense gun action to reduce violence and save lives," Gov. Whitmer said at the bill signing, per USA Today. "Gun violence is a scourge that is unique to this country, and that's why we're taking action."

Whitmer added, "We don't have to live like this, and today, we're showing that we're not going to."

Michigan's move to quickly pass new legislation following a mass shooting is significant. Despite the rise of mass shootings and gun violence in the United States, little action has been taken.

The last significant piece of national gun legislation laws was a June 2022 bipartisan bill the Senate passed to address gun violence. That bill largely focused on mental health support and school security interventions. It also included groundbreaking legislation that could limit who can own a gun via red flag laws, by closing the boyfriend loophole, and utilizing enhanced background checks.

The new laws passed by Michigan largely target guns and gun storage. Two bills strengthen background checks and require anyone without a firearm license to submit to a federal criminal background check before being able to purchase a gun. Prior law only required a background check for anyone looking to buy a pistol. Those who want to get a gun license in the state will also have to clear mental illness checks, per CNN.

"Universal background checks will help keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals, domestic abusers, and people on terrorism watch lists and no-fly lists," Whitmer said Thursday at a signing ceremony at Michigan State University.

The legislation also focuses on storage requirements for firearms and is specifically aimed at ensuring children don't have access to guns and ammunition at home. The legislation states that gun owners who live with minors or have minors visit need to store the firearm in a locked box or container or a lock on the gun that would make it unusable to anyone other than the authorized user. It also outlines safety rules for gun owners who keep or have a gun in their vehicle, with requirements to keep them locked and unloaded. Those not following the new requirements could face misdemeanor charges punishable by up to 93 days in prison, a fine of up to $500, or both.

Every Town Research, a gun safety organization, highlights the importance of safe storage laws, pointing to several studies that spotlight this vital facet of responsible gun ownership. One study found that one-third of youth gun suicides and unintentional deaths could be prevented by responsible gun storage. Another found that locked firearms and locked ammunition are associated with an 85% lower risk of "unintentional firearm injuries among children and teens, compared to those that locked neither."

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that the “safest home for a child is one without guns.” However, if you do have a firearm in the home, precautions need to be taken. The AAP advises that all guns in the home must be unloaded and locked, and the ammunition must be stored separately and locked away as well.

The new Michigan laws go into effect next year.