House passes safe storage bills as gun reform package makes way through Legislature
The Democratic-led Michigan House on Wednesday passed legislation requiring the safe storage of firearms.
The legislative package, which consisted of four Senate bills and four House bills, passed with varying support from Republicans. The House and Senate have passed other gun reform bills in recent weeks in the wake of the Feb. 13 mass shooting at Michigan State University.
House Bills 4144 and 4139 would require unattended firearms to be safely stored if accessible by a minor and update the sentencing guidelines, respectively, while House Bills 4141 and 4140 would remove sales and use taxes from firearm safety device purchases, such as safes, lock boxes and trigger and barrel locks, through the end of 2024.
“The secure storage of firearms is a crucial step to help protect children by preventing unauthorized access to guns,” said state Rep. Sharon MacDonell (D-Troy), sponsor of HB 4139. “Enacting secure storage legislation now could help to prevent up to one-third of youth suicides and unintentional manslaughter in children and youths. This doesn’t just represent a number — this represents real people. Real lives that will be saved by passing these bills.”
According to data collected by gun violence prevention group Everytown, nearly 350 children under the age of 18 unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else every year, with 70 percent of the incidents taking place inside a home. Additionally, more than 700 children die by gun suicide each year, most often using guns belonging to a family member.
The group also says unsecured firearms fuel gun violence outside the home. The US Secret Service found that three-quarters of school shooters acquired their firearm from the home of a parent or close relative.
State Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Township), sponsor of HB 4144, said they must do everything possible to keep children safe from gun violence.
“Owning a gun is both a right and a responsibility,” she said. “Ensuring that these deadly weapons are securely stored will help stop the tragic consequences that so often come when children gain access to guns.”
In a press release announcing the passage, House Democrats noted that Michigan law requires private pool owners to use fences or locked gates around pools to prevent drownings or other accidents, but does not have a law requiring firearms to be stored securely.
That’s despite statistics indicating firearms are the leading cause of death for children age 1 to 17 in the U.S., with American children three times more likely to be shot and killed than die by drowning.
In the 24 states that have already passed firearm storage laws, Everytown says there was an 8% decrease in overall suicide rates, and an 11% decrease in firearm suicide rates, among adolescents aged 14 to 17.
“This commonsense legislation makes a world of difference when it comes to preventing gun violence in our communities, and I look forward to seeing the bill progress through the Senate as it moves to the governor’s desk,” said state Rep. Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit), sponsor of HB 4140.
The gun storage measures had particular significance following the Nov. 30, 2021, shooting at Oxford High School, in which a 15-year-old brought a handgun from his parents’ home to school and used it to kill four students and injure seven others.
It failed to even be taken up in the GOP-controlled Legislature when it was introduced in the aftermath of the shooting.
The House previously passed legislation requiring background checks for all unlicensed gun sales and mandating all firearm sales be subject to a background check.
The safe storage bills now head to the Michigan Senate for consideration.
House Republicans were scheduled to hold a press conference Wednesday against the bills, but it was canceled.
“I will always advocate for responsible gun ownership, but this broad mandate doesn’t solve the root issues of violence or deter criminals from breaking laws that we already have,” said state Rep. Jamie Thompson (R-Brownstown Twp.) in a floor speech. “We already have plenty of laws on the books that can be used to punish people who act recklessly with a firearm to endanger children. These bills simply micromanage law-abiding citizens who wish to protect themselves with a firearm.”
As the Advance previously reported, the Michigan GOP and Chair Kristina Karamo also weighed in on Wednesday with a widely criticized comparison of gun reform bills to the Holocaust.
Advance reporter Laina G. Stebbins contributed reporting.