In the wake of deadly school shootings in Oxford and at Michigan State University, which sparked tremendous outrage and public activism, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday signed into law broadly popular and commonsense measures to address the epidemic of gun violence.
The new laws require universal background checks for firearm purchases and mandate safe storage of firearms with penalties for failure to keep weapons away from children. Later in the day, the House approved a measure to prevent the purchase of guns by people deemed a risk to themselves or others.
Whitmer joined with lawmakers, community groups, educators, law enforcement, students and parents following February’s shooting at Michigan State University and the shooting at Oxford High School in November 2021 to get these “long overdue” measures signed into law.
“Today, we are turning our pain into purpose and honoring those we have lost with commonsense gun violence prevention legislation supported by a majority of Michiganders,” Whitmer said. “I want to thank my partners in the Legislature for getting this done, the advocates who fought so hard to make this happen, and every Michigander impacted by gun violence who shared their stories. We will keep working together to prevent mass shootings, reduce gun violence, and save lives.”
MEA President Paula Herbart, who attended the morning ceremony, noted that huge majorities of Michiganders support the changes, but little could be done to move proposals forward until voters last fall changed control of the House and Senate and re-elected Whitmer.
“These new laws – which seemed an impossible dream just one year ago in the wake of a devastating tragedy in Oxford – are now a reality, thanks to the tireless efforts of so many who refused to accept the cynical view that nothing could be done to protect our children and save lives,” Herbart said.
Senate Bill 79, sponsored by state Sen. Bayer (D-West Bloomfield), will protect children by requiring an individual to keep a firearm unloaded and locked with a locking device or stored in a locked box or container if it is reasonably known that a minor is or is likely to be present on the premises and establish a range of penalties for a violation.
“Finally, there is a tiny stitch to begin healing my heart, broken from the Oxford school shootings, the MSU school shootings, and every injury or death from accidental shootings of or by children,” Bayer said. “Finally, we are doing our job, passing legislation, taking our first steps to manage this out-of-control gun violence situation in Michigan.”
Senate Bill 80, sponsored by state Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet (D-Bay City), is the senator’s first public act. The legislation updates the state’s criminal code for safe storage of firearms for child access protection.
“I have devoted the bulk of my career to helping children and families thrive. We can’t thrive without feeling and being safe,” McDonald Rivet said. “That’s why overwhelming majorities in Michigan, including gun owners, support the action we’re taking. This is about protecting our children and preventing tragedies from upending our communities. I’m proud to stand against special interests and stand up for kids and families.”
Senate Bills 81 and 82, sponsored by state Senators Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores), lower the costs of firearm safety devices to ensure owners can safely store their guns, keeping them away from children and out of the hands of criminals.
“Firearm fatalities are currently the leading cause of death for young people in our nation,” Hertel said. “As a father, I am proud of the steps our state is taking today to change that and build a safer future for all.”
House Bills 4138 and 4142, sponsored by state Representatives Jaime Churches (D-Grosse Ile) and Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac), protect Michigan communities by closing loopholes in the law and expanding universal background checks to all firearms.
“It is our collective responsibility to keep students safe,” Churches said. “This legislation provides a foundation to help build a safer Michigan – so no student, no worshiper, no law enforcement officer – has to fear for their safety. As state representative for Downriver, I will advocate for reasonable, common-sense policies to protect our communities from gun violence.”
“Michigan has not been spared from our nation’s plague of gun violence,” Carter said. “For years now, the legislature in Michigan has been paralyzed to act. No more. I am proud to have the governor sign my bill as a part of the universal background check package and to be able to share in this great moment for our state.”