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Michigan now requires universal background checks for all gun purchases, safe storage of firearms

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(LANSING, Mich.) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed two gun safety bills into law Thursday, requiring universal background checks for all gun sales and the safe storage of firearms and ammunition in homes.

The legislation comes after a gunman opened fire at two locations on Michigan State University’s main campus in East Lansing in February, shooting eight students, three fatally. After an hourslong manhunt, police found the suspect — identified as 43-year-old Anthony McRae — dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound off campus.

The first of the two new laws would require anyone who does not have a gun license to undergo a federal national instant criminal background check before purchasing a gun, according to the legislation.

“Universal background checks will help keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals, domestic abusers and people on terrorism watch lists and no-fly lists,” Whitmer said Thursday at a signing ceremony at Michigan State University.

Prior Michigan law only required background checks for pistol purchases, but not long gun or shotgun purchases. Whitmer said the previous law “doesn’t make any sense,” adding that background checks also help law enforcement stay safe on the job and solve crimes more easily.

The second law introduces new safe storage requirements, aiming to ensure children do not have access to guns and ammunition being stored at home.

Gun owners who live with minors who could access their firearms will now be required to store the firearm in a locked box or container or lock the firearm with a locking device that renders it inoperable by any individual other than the owner or an authorized user, according to the legislation.

Gun owners who enter other premises where a minor is located and leave their firearm unattended in a vehicle must store the firearm in a locked box or container in the vehicle, or keep the firearm unloaded and lock the firearm with a locking device that is properly engaged to render the firearm inoperable by any individual other than the owner or an authorized user, according to the legislation.

An individual could face misdemeanor charges punishable by up to 93 days in prison, a fine of up to $500 or both, if they fail to safety secure their firearm and a minor obtains it and possesses it in a public place or possesses it in the presence of another person in a careless, reckless or threatening manner, according to the legislation.

“Responsible gun owners will tell you — you listen to them — they will tell you how important it is to keep your guns locked up in your home. It is about protecting your children and your family,” Whitmer said.

Ethan Crumbley, a student who fatally shot four classmates at Oxford High School, just outside Detroit, in November 2021, told a judge he had asked his father to buy him a gun — which he later used in the shooting — confirming that it was not stored safely in their home. Crumbley pleaded guilty to 24 charges in connection with the shooting. His parents have both pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter for their alleged role in the shooting.

The Michigan House of Representatives also passed red flag law legislation on Thursday, which Whitmer said she would sign into law if it reaches her desk. The bill now heads to the state Senate.

“These are measures which will allow family and friends and law enforcement who are concerned about someone who is seeking to harm themselves or others to seek a court order to temporarily confiscate those firearms,” Whitmer said.

Six Michigan Mom’s Demand Action volunteers were elected into the state legislature last November, in part paving the way for gun safety legislation.

“Michigan serves as a blueprint for how the gun violence prevention movement has turned the tide on this issue,” said Angela Ferrell-Zabala, a senior vice president at Everytown for Gun Safety who leads anti-gun violence group Moms Demand Action.

Whitmer said lawmakers are taking this “common sense gun action” to reduce violence and save lives.

“We see the horrific impacts of gun violence playing out every single day. In the most ordinary situations we see extraordinary violence,” Whitmer said. “Gun violence is a scourge that is unique to this country and that’s why we are taking action.”

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