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Proposed bills in MI Senate would criminalize unsafe storage of firearms

In the wake of the Oxford shooting, lawmakers are moving to make gun safety a priority
Posted at 6:42 PM, Jan 19, 2022

MICHIGAN — A set of new bills would hold gun owners accountable for failing to safely store their firearms.

SB550, SB551, SB552 and SB553 spell out consequences for varying degrees of violation of safe gun storage.

“If your kid finds the gun and takes it to school and shows everybody, that’s a misdemeanor,” said Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D–Beverly Hills), who co-authored the bills. “If they use that firearm and cause harm to themselves or anyone else, that’s a felony.”

According to the Giffords Law Center, roughly 4.6 million minors nationwide live in households with unlocked firearms. In a study the center conducted, almost a quarter of gun owners admitted they don’t store their firearms in a locked location.

“We have to change the story here; we cannot put our kids at risk every day,” said Senator Bayer. “These [bills] do not take guns away. They’re all about how to make it safe.”

Although the bills were first introduced in the summer, Senator Bayer said the November Oxford High School shooting had a large impact on her desire to get the bills passed. The high school is in her district, and she thinks about the tragedy often.

“I think about that incident all the time,” she said. “It’s part of my district still and so those are my people and I’m doing everything I can to help them get through this tragedy.”

Investigators say Ethan Crumbley, the accused Oxford High School shooter, obtained the gun he used from his parents’ sock drawer. The two are now facing a slew of involuntary manslaughter charges.

READ MORE: 15-year-old suspect charged with murder, terrorism in Oxford High School shooting

“80% of school shooters get their firearms from the home,” said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the national group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “It’s really time for Michigan to join the other states that are doing this and make all gun owners realize this is an earnest responsibility that they must take seriously.”

Massachusetts is the only state with laws that require all firearms to be stored in a locked place. Other states have similar but less encompassing laws that require handguns to be kept locked away. Horwitz notes that 83 kids died of gun violence in Michigan in 2020, many from accidental shootings, which are notoriously underreported in the U.S. He and Senator Bayer also say safe gun storage is also effective in combating suicides.

“There are many other ways people attempt suicide, but firearms are the way that most people complete suicide,” said Horwitz. “Reducing access to lethal means saves lives; it’s a tried-and-true method to prevent gun suicide.”

An estimated 9 out of 10 gun-suicide attempts result in death.

The bills haven’t made it far, though. A hearing is scheduled for next week to discuss which bills should be brought up for discussion, but Republicans in the Michigan Legislature have been slow to get on board, Bayer says.

“I’m ever hopeful; I’m very optimistic,” she added. “It’s been a challenge, I’ll say that.”

“This doesn’t have to be a partisan issue,” said Horwitz. "There are evidence-based approaches to save lives.”

RELATED: Muskegon-area nonprofit working to end gun violence

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