‘Red flag’ gun safety legislation introduced in Michigan

By: - March 1, 2019 10:23 pm

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Democrats this week introduced “red flag” legislation aimed at curbing gun violence.

Companion bills in the Michigan House of Representatives and the Senate would allow judges to issue protective orders. These measures would prevent those deemed to pose a “clear and present risk of harm to themselves or others” by law enforcement or family members from buying or possessing guns.

Robert Wittenberg

In order for a judge to issue a protective order, supporters say a wide variety of evidence must first be considered.

The House legislation is sponsored by state Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Huntington Woods) while the Senate bills are led by state Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills). The legislation in both chambers has numerous Democratic co-sponsors.

“This is about protecting our families and our children while still respecting the rights of law abiding gun owners,” Wittenberg said during a Thursday news conference. “And make no mistake this legislation can and will have a direct impact on the safety of our children and our families.”

Similar red flag gun laws have been enacted in 11 states. Supporters here say that enacting it in Michigan will “empower” law enforcement and family members to prevent future mass shootings.

A similar law took effect in Maryland last October. Since that time there have been more than 300 protective orders issued by law enforcement, Maryland Matters reported.

Rosemary Bayer

While the coalition of Michigan lawmakers have no GOP legislators as co-sponsors, they do count at least one prominent Republican as a supporter.

“Time and time again, we have witnessed tragedies unfold which could have been prevented with proactive steps, including restricting access to firearms for those acute mental health issues,” said Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, who ran for governor in 2010.

“This legislation will provide a due process path to remove firearms from those who are a danger to themselves or others while protecting rights of lawful abiding citizens. I am hopeful the state of Michigan supports this policy which many other states have passed.”

Asked about the legislation during a Thursday news conference, House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), who last summer was briefly detained and later paid a fine for attempting to bring a loaded, unregistered pistol on an airplane, said he’d yet to review the specifics of the legislation.

Mike Bouchard | Twitter

“I want to ensure the right to keep and bear arms is protected for all citizens,” Chatfield said.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has pushed for a federal red flag law following the 2018 Parkland school shooting in his state that killed 17 people.

This week, the Democratic-controlled U.S. House passed the first major gun control measure in more than two decades, which included expanding the federal background check system for firearms purchases.

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Nick Manes
Nick Manes

Nick Manes is a former Michigan Advance reporter, covering West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels.