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Domestic violence bills fuel criticism over reach of gun rights revocations in Michigan

Beth LeBlanc, The Detroit News on

Published in News & Features

DETROIT — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation Monday that would crack down on gun possession by domestic violence offenders, but would also result in gun ownership rights being revoked for Michiganians convicted of dozens of non-assaultive crimes.

The bills, spearheaded by state Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, would block domestic violence offenders from owning or possessing a firearm for eight years after completing their sentence, a change that partially mirrors federal prohibitions on gun ownership after a domestic violence misdemeanor. A similar state-level waiting period for misdemeanors involving a firearm was needed to make it possible for state and local law enforcement officials to enforce it, advocates said.

“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.

Opponents have argued the legislation uses too broad a definition of "recent domestic partner" when it seeks to qualify domestic violence-related misdemeanors that would qualify for an eight-year suspension of gun rights.

But the legislation also appears to reach much further than crimes involving domestic violence, causing one state lawmaker to dub the bills a "Trojan horse" for other restrictions on gun ownership.


"The Democrats drew this bill as broadly as possible to take gun rights away from as many people as possible. And then claimed it was all about domestic violence perpetrators," state Rep. Graham Filler, R-St. Johns, said Monday.

Chang countered that the focus of the legislation has always been on domestic violence offenses. The bills' changes to gun suspensions related to other misdemeanors and felonies, she said, were made "after consulting with law enforcement and domestic violence groups."

Monday's signing of the bills came 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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