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Domestic violence offenders in Michigan will lose gun ownership rights for years

Beth LeBlanc, The Detroit News on

Published in News & Features

DETROIT — Michigan law will bar domestic violence offenders from owning or possessing a firearm for eight years after they complete their sentence under legislation signed Monday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The bills, spearheaded by state Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, largely mirrors federal prohibitions on gun ownership after a domestic violence misdemeanor or other misdemeanors. But the existence of the ban in Michigan law makes it possible for state and local law enforcement officials to enforce it.

“We need to give our state level prosecutors and law enforcement the tools to enforce this kind of prohibition,” Chang said in a hearing earlier this fall.

“Survivors of domestic violence endure unimaginable pain and betrayal and it is our responsibility to ensure that they have the peace of mind knowing that they’ll be protected from threats of gun violence at the hands of their abusers,” she added.

Michigan would join more than 30 states that have adopted such a state-level restriction, Chang said.

The ban on domestic violence offenders owning or possessing a firearm is expected to go into effect in late February.

Whitmer signed the bills Monday at a YWCA in Kalamazoo that runs a shelter and services for domestic violence survivors.

"These bills are based on a simple idea: If you've been found guilty in court for violently assaulting your partner, you should not be able to access a deadly weapon that could be used to threaten, harm of kill them," Whitmer said Monday.

"It's just common sense," the governor added.

The bills, which included sponsors Sen. Sue Shink, D-Northfield Township, and Rep. Amos O'Neal, D-Saginaw, passed largely along party lines in the Democratic-controlled Legislature. The bills have been introduced in the past three legislative sessions, failing to gain traction under Republican control of the House and Senate.


Michigan Open Carry, a gun owners rights organization, opposed the legislation, calling it a "bait and switch" that went beyond domestic violence offenses to also include new three- to five-year restrictions on more minor non-assaultive misdemeanors.

"Federal courts are already striking down prohibitions based on non-violent felonies," Tom Lambert, of Michigan Open Carry, testified in committee in September. "How are courts going to view non-violent misdemeanors?”

The three-bill package expands a list of crimes that currently bar gun ownership for three to five years to include more misdemeanors; and, for a misdemeanor involving domestic violence, the bills expand the length of time before a firearm purchase to eight years.

Individuals who violated the eight-year waiting period could be charged with a 5-year felony and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

State law currently bars possession of a firearm by anyone convicted of a felony but has three- to five-year waiting periods for those convicted of certain misdemeanors. But those restrictions aren’t kept in place in the case of most expungements.

Monday's signing of the bills comes after the Democratic-led House and Senate earlier this year passed bills implementing universal background check and registration for gun purchases; bills that would create a so-called red flag law to confiscate guns from those deemed a threat; and safe storage laws requiring the secure storage of firearms.

Whitmer signed those gun regulations into law in April.


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