Michigan lawmakers are considering a package of bills aimed at increasing gun control measures in the state. The proposals include safe storage laws, universal background checks, and extreme risk protection orders (also known as red flag laws). The bills were introduced following a shooting at Michigan State University that left three students dead. Much of the package was crafted by Democrats over a year ago but saw little movement with Republicans in control of the House and Senate. However, with Democrats now in control, the bills quickly came before House and Senate committees earlier this month. Gun violence survivors and families of victims gave tearful testimony to lawmakers.
Republicans argue that current gun laws need to be better enforced, not altered, and that violent people, not their possession of weapons, are the problem. They also claim that mental health should be addressed for individuals who may pose a risk of committing violent acts. The Michigan law currently requires someone buying firearms such as rifles or shotguns to be 18 years or older and at least 21 years old to purchase a handgun from a federally licensed dealer. Certain licenses allow 18-year-olds to purchase handguns from private sellers. Police found dozens of rounds of ammunition on the shooter in addition to two handguns that were legally purchased but never registered. Legislation passed in the House on Wednesday would address that loophole, shifting the responsibility to perform the background check and register the firearm with police onto the seller.
Mass shootings across the US in recent years have widened the political divide on gun ownership. In Democratic-led states with restrictive gun laws, elected officials have responded to home-state tragedies by enacting and proposing even more limits on guns. In many states with Republican-led legislatures, shootings appear unlikely to prompt any new restrictions this year.