The Michigan state Senate recently approved an 11-bill package that would increase gun ownership regulations for Michigan residents. The proposals include safe storage laws, “red flag” laws and universal background checks.
The “red flag” laws would let judges temporarily restrict access to guns for individuals who are a risk to themselves or others. Another bill would require Michigan residents to obtain a license to own a gun.
Michigan law currently requires individuals to be at least 18 years old to purchase a rifle or shotgun while individuals must be at least 21 years old to buy a handgun from a federally licensed dealer. However, under certain licenses, 18-year-olds can buy handguns from private sellers.
The new legislation would also implement safe storage laws. Under these laws, individuals would face consequences for storing a firearm where a minor could access it.
The 11-bill package will now move on to the Michigan state House. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has stated that she will sign the bills.
This legislation was first introduced after the 2021 shooting at Oxford High School which resulted in the death of four students. They were reintroduced after the shooting at Michigan State University on Feb. 13, in which three students were killed and five were critically injured.
According to Benjamin Peterson, Lecturer of Political Science and History it is difficult to predict what impact Michigan’s action could have on the rest of the nation or even on other individual states.
“In general, gun politics are highly regional and highly subject to context. In public policy, there is a theory of punctuated equilibrium which suggests that change generally occurs in brief moments when the ‘normal’ balance between political forces is disrupted. That is true in Michigan right now, but it is not true in most other states.”
“On the other hand, if the system they are building in this legislation is successful over time, it may be seen as a viable model and attract supporters,” said Peterson. “We will have to wait and see how the media narrative emerges, and if it connects to a larger national movement.”
As a member of Alma College Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), Claire Neeb (’24) has closely followed this process. Neeb believes this legislation is a step in the right direction for Michigan.
“One of the basic features of government and governed people are certain freedoms being compromised in exchange for protection, security and freedom in other forms,” said Neeb. “[This] legislation is proposing that people compromise the freedom to [easily acquire] a gun in exchange for the protection of schools, children and communities.”
“A key element is that people are not being asked to entirely give up the freedom to obtain a weapon, but to make the process safer and more efficient to ensure other freedoms, such as the freedom to learn in a safe environment.”
Benjamin Schall (’24) is happy to see what he views as progress being made but believes there is a lot more that lawmakers can do to reduce gun violence in Michigan.
“Any action at all is wonderful to see, but that should be the baseline. Background checks are a no-brainer, but it’s a step in the right direction and I’m glad that the state congress acknowledges that it’s in their hands,” said Schall. “I would love to see a ban on assault weaponry, which several states have effectively already done.”
Schall understands that people who do not support gun control action often believe that their right to own a gun is at risk of being taken away. Schall believes it is important to educate people about what this legislation really means for Michigan gun owners.
“When David Hogg came to speak on [Alma College’s] campus [in Oct. 2022], he mentioned that the people who protest gun laws are typically against violence, but they believe that responsible gun owners are in danger,” said Schall.
“I think an important message is that making it harder to get guns mainly affects people who want to do bad with them, not the people who want to own them for protection,” said Schall.