Definition change expands gun suspensions
Senate Bill 471, signed into law Monday, makes the lion's share of changes that usher in the gun suspensions for domestic violence offenders in the state's "felon in possession" law, which police and prosecutors use as a guide when determining who is barred from having a gun.
But additional changes made to the bill alter the definition of a felony from a crime punishable by four or more years in prison to a crime punishable by more than one year in prison. The change means that more than 190 additional misdemeanors and felonies — many unrelated to domestic violence — would merit a three-year to five-year gun rights suspension, according to House and Senate fiscal agency analyses.
"With that definition change, many high-court misdemeanors, two-year felonies, etc. are added to the statute as well (implicating the three-year to five-year prohibition)," Sgt. Kristine Droste of the government relations section of the Michigan State Police said in a Monday email. "This definition of felony is consistent with the threshold for 'felony' found in many other sections of law."
Among the misdemeanors and felonies that legislative analyses indicate now will be potentially subject to a three- to five-year gun rights suspension: Certain lobbying and campaign finance violations, false statements on a veterans benefit application, certain gambling offenses, disorderly conduct at a funeral, possession of an aquatic prohibited species and knowingly allowing an MMA or boxing professional to compete against an amateur in an amateur contest.
The House Fiscal Agency analysis indicates that since the changes aren't part of any given sentence, "they would apply to all those whose sentences have not been completed when the bill takes effect, in addition to those convicted or sentenced after that date."
During debate on the bills, many lawmakers in support or opposition focused on the perceived strengths or weaknesses of the definitions and penalties related to domestic violence offenses. Few drew attention to the accompanying change in the definition of a felony that would open the door to nearly 200 additional offenses that could result in a weapons suspension.
But on Monday, a few sounded off on the change.
Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, said the legislation goes beyond how federal law would handle gun rights suspensions related to domestic violence or non-assaultive misdemeanors.
"The majority party was so intent on smashing through a bunch of agenda items that every concern fell on deaf ears," Runestad said.
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