At Michigan State University, Whitmer signs first gun reform bills

Legislation requires background checks and safe storage of firearms, ammunition

By: - April 13, 2023 11:48 am

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs a package of firearm regulation bills while lawmakers and advocates look on, East Lansing, April 13, 2023 | Laina G. Stebbins

Eight weeks to the day when three Michigan State University students were killed by a gunman on the school’s campus, state officials, lawmakers and more than 100 advocates packed another campus space Thursday to celebrate the first round of gun reform bills signed into law.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bills 79, 80, 81 and 82, and House Bills 4138 and 4142 amid cheers and applause. The bill package institutes universal background checks for all gun sales in Michigan and requires safe storage of firearms and ammunition.

“No longer do we only have our thoughts and prayers. We have these tools, and we’re taking action,” said Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller. “These six bills … are part of a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to preventing gun violence.”

Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, state Rep. Ranjeev Puri (D-Canton) and state Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Keego Harbor) emphasized that the bills signed Thursday are just the beginning of state lawmakers tackling gun violence in earnest for the first time.

The bills are:

  • Senate Bill 79, sponsored by Bayer, would provide for penalties for storing or leaving a firearm where it may be accessed by a minor.
  • Senate Bill 80, sponsored by state Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet (D-Bay City) and tie-barred with SB 79, would update sentencing guidelines references accordingly.
  • Senate Bill 81, sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), would exempt firearm safety devices from the state’s sales tax.
  • Senate Bill 82, sponsored by state Sen. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores) would exempt firearm safety devices from the state’s use tax.
  • House Bill 4138, sponsored by state Rep. Jaime Churches (D-Wyandotte), would require background checks for all unlicensed gun sales.
  • House Bill 4142, sponsored by state Rep. Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac), would update the Michigan Penal Code to ensure that all firearm sales are subject to a background check.

“These bills … have been in the making for years,” Puri said. “ … The amount of gun violence which exists in our country is a symptom of years of government inaction.”

Puri added that voters elected the Democratic “trifecta” in part to tackle serious issues like firearm reform that have long been pushed aside by Republicans.

“Following the horrific shooting at Oxford High School in 2021, despite calls for action, the Legislature failed to act,” said Angela Ferrell-Zabala of the gun reform group Moms Demand Action. “But guess what? We took notice, and we held those lawmakers accountable at the ballot box last November.

“ … Universal background checks and secure storage will now be the law of the land.”


Prominent gun reform advocate and Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor David Hogg was also present on stage throughout Thursday morning’s speeches and bill signing.

“We don’t have to live like this. And today, we are showing that we are not going to anymore,” Whitmer said, before signing the six bills into law.

The Michigan House is slated to pass more gun reform bills Thursday afternoon.

Correction: Some photos originally misidentified Rep. Jason Morgan.


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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.