gov. gretchen whitmer speaking at a microphone
The new laws will make Michigan the 34th state with laws temporarily banning gun access for people convicted of domestic violence-related misdemeanors. (Courtesy)

People with domestic violence convictions of any kind won’t be allowed access to guns for eight years under legislation signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Monday. 

This story also appeared in Bridge Michigan

The legislation, Senate Bills 471 and 528 and House Bill 4945, suspends access to guns for those convicted of a misdemeanor involving domestic violence. Those subject to the ban would be prohibited from buying, owning or transporting firearms for eight years.

State law already prohibited those convicted of felonies — including domestic violence felonies — from owning a gun three to five years after they complete their sentence. 

But there was no state law banning those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from owning a gun. There is a federal ban that does that, but gun reform advocates argue it does not apply to all domestic abusers and relies on limited federal resources for enforcement.

“These bills are based on a simple idea: If you have been found guilty in court for violently assaulting your partner, you should not be able to access a deadly weapon that you could use to further threaten, harm or kill them,” Whitmer said before signing the legislation in Kalamazoo.

The new laws will take effect early next year and make Michigan the 34th state with laws on the books temporarily banning anyone convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from owning guns, according to the Giffords Law Center

Under the legislation, several misdemeanor charges — including stalking, assault, destruction of property, vulnerable adult abuse and sexual abuse — would be considered domestic violence if the perpetrator’s victim was their current or former spouse, current or former dating partner, a resident of their household, parent, guardian or co-parent of a child. 

Whitmer was joined at a Monday bill signing ceremony by lawmakers, domestic violence survivors and advocates, who said the new laws would give abuse victims another tool to help protect themselves.

Martha and Rick Omilian, Plainwell residents whose daughter Maggie was shot and killed by an ex-boyfriend in 1999, said the legislation could help save the lives of others trying to get out of a violent relationship. 

“A convicted domestic violence offender, male or female, has shown by their past behavior that access to a firearm is not appropriate,” Rick Omilian said. “This is not a violation of their rights or a threat to those who are responsible gun owners. But it is a reasonable action due to the past behavior and the history of the abuser.”  

The bills had support from a few Republicans in the Legislature, but most opposed the package on grounds that the definition of what misdemeanor convictions constitute domestic violence was too broad and the punishment too severe. 

Rep. Phil Green, R-Millington, previously told Bridge Michigan the state would be better served by focusing on enforcing existing laws, investing in education and addressing substance abuse.

A legal challenge to federal laws banning those subject to domestic violence restraining orders from owning guns is pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, after opponents argued it violated the Second Amendment. The federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas ruled that law unconstitutional in February, arguing the ban was “an outlier that our ancestors would have never accepted.” 

More than 70,000 people reported being the victim of domestic violence in Michigan in 2021, including more than 50,000 females and almost 20,000 males, according to data from Michigan State Police. A total of 88 died. 

Domestic violence victims are five times more likely to die when their abusers have access to guns, according to a 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.

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