Advance Notice: Briefs

Legislation to fix gap in Michigan’s ban on firearms in airports sent to Senate

By: - May 24, 2023 11:43 am

Shell casings, fake revolvers, a machete and a cutlery set are displayed during a press conference at John F. Kennedy (JFK) airport August 27, 2003 in New York City. The TSA displayed some of the thousands of pieces confiscated by TSA agents from people attempting to board their flights. Since February 2002, airport security screeners have confiscated approximately 7.5 million items. | Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Legislation to address a change in federal regulations that has left Michigan with a gap in its laws against bringing firearms past security at airports is heading to the state Senate for consideration.

The bill, SB 22, would address the technicality in state law that allowed former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) to avoid prosecution by the Emmet County prosecutor after bringing a loaded handgun to the Pellston Regional Airport in 2018. 

House speaker’s fine cut after bringing loaded gun to airport

Michigan law defines the “sterile area” past security at an airport where firearms are banned by referencing a federal regulation line that has changed since the law was written. Back in 2018, Emmet County Prosecutor James Linderman said he couldn’t prosecute Chatfield due to the state law being dependent on a definition in a federal regulation line that has since changed.

Linderman testified last week in front of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure committee in support of the legislation to clearly define the “sterile area” in airports in Michigan law.

“If you walk into a sterile area with a firearm right now, it’s almost impossible to prosecute the person. I’ve tried it a couple of times and had to dismiss the cases frankly. That’s not a good thing,” Linderman said.

And the problem is getting worse with the number of firearms found at checkpoints so far in 2023 already exceeding the total for the whole year in 2022, Michigan Association of Airport Executives Chairman Kevin Klein said in testimony last week. 

Earlier this year, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that in 2022 its officers found 100 handguns at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) security checkpoints.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. John DaMoose (R-Harbor Springs), passed the Senate committee 10-0, with Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) abstaining from the vote.


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Anna Liz Nichols
Anna Liz Nichols

Anna Liz Nichols covers government and statewide issues, including criminal justice, environmental issues, education and domestic and sexual violence. Anna is a former state government reporter for The Associated Press and most recently was a reporter for the Detroit News. Anna is a graduate of Michigan State University.