Advancing Michigan bill would repeal legal protections for gun industry

A Michigan Senate committee amended one of the proposed changes to remove from state law current legal protections for gun dealers and manufacturers before Thursday’s approval.

Democrats included the liability changes to a bill that had previously been focused on gun storage standards for homes with children. The revisions were immediately criticised by Republicans.

Two pages of federally licensed firearm dealers would be exempted from liability for “damages arising from the misuse or use” of guns if they were legally sold. The law also prohibits local governments from suing gun makers in Michigan.

“… (A), a political subdivision, shall not bring a civil suit against anyone who produces a firearm and ammunition,” according to the current law.

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Senator Stephanie Chang, D. Detroit, is the chairwoman of Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. She stated that senators realized that by passing the firearm storage legislation, it would mean they were voting on a section of state law which included immunity protections.

Chang stated to reporters that Chang saw it as an opportunity for updating our laws.

Tom Lambert, Michigan Open Carry’s legislative director, stated that the changes “have the potential to close down every gun shop in the state.”

Wednesday’s vote by Chang’s committee was to move to the full Senate bills. These bills would require criminal background checks on all gun purchases. They also would allow “extreme-risk” protection orders (also known as a red Flag law) to allow people to take guns from those deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Senator Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) called the liability revision for the storage bill a “poison tablet” that would bankrupt gun manufacturers and dealers. R-Holly, Sen. Ruth Johnson said that there had not been proper discussion regarding the proposed change to the proposal prior to Thursday’s committee vote.

Johnson stated that Johnson believed it would allow civil lawsuits to be filed against law-abiding dealers and manufacturers, even if they complied with every law. Johnson stated, “It’s a significant change in our values that we cherish in this country.”

Since February 13, when a gunman attacked the Michigan State University campus and killed three students, Michigan legislators have been focusing on reforming the state’s firearm policy. A mass shooting at Oxford High School in November 2021 left seven people injured and four students killed. It took place 14 months prior.

Although he legally purchased a gun from an MSU gunman, he did not register it. In 2019, he accepted a plea agreement that reduced his charges from carrying concealed pistols without concealed carry permits to possessing loaded firearms in vehicles, a two year misdemeanor. He served 18 months probation.

McRae, who was charged with a misdemeanor, could legally possess and own a firearm after completing probation, Ingham County Prosecutor John Dewane stated. Critics of gun regulations have pointed to the plea agreement of the suspect gunman to demand better enforcement of existing firearm laws.

A state role outside federal law

Gun manufacturers are already protected by a federal 2005 law.

The federal policy would still prevent some victims from suing, but the state legislature has significant authority to draft legislation that empowers victims to get through the cracks in the federal industry immunity laws, if they choose,” Ari Freilich, the state policy director of the Giffords Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Gabrielle Giffords (an ex-Arizona congresswoman and survivor of gun violence) is the center’s name. She survived an assassination attempt in January 2011, during which there was a mass shooting near Tucson, Arizona. Six people were killed in the shooting. Giffords sustained brain damage, which forced her to resign as a member of Congress one year later and concentrate on her recovery. Giffords will attend a rally against gun violence Wednesday at Capitol.

Freilich stated that one exception to federal protection is the right to sue victims of gun violence if they can show they were injured by a firearm industry employee’s knowledge violation of a state law regulating firearm industry.

He explained that Congress had generally protected the firearm industry against common law tort actions and judicially-created doctrines. However, it specifically preserved the central role of state legislatures in enacting firearm industry statutes. “States can decide what they want to do with this authority, and that is up to them today,” he said.

Freilich urged Michigan legislators to repeal the immunity protections and replace them with “a firearms industry standard of responsible conduct that clearly authorizes victims gun violence to have their day before court if they can show they were harmed because a firearms industry member’s knew violations of that state law regulating the firearm industry commerce.”

Chang stated that a representative of Michigan Association of Justice, which advocates for trial lawyers, noted that voting in favor of the safe storage bill as it was originally introduced would mean that gun dealers and manufacturers would continue to be protected under the law.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat signed a bill last January to allow individuals, local government and California Attorney General Rob Bonta, to sue “irresponsible sellers and manufacturers of firearms for any harm they cause,” according to a press release.

In 2022, nine families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting reached a $73 Million settlement with Remington, the manufacturer of the rifle that was used in the murders.

According to the Associated Press, the Connecticut civil court case focused on the marketing of the firearm. The families claimed it was targeted at younger, more vulnerable males.

Now, the Michigan gun proposals go to full Senate. They could be voted upon as soon as next week.

If they have reason to believe that a minor is present, the storage proposal prohibits people from leaving firearms unattended in their homes. They must lock or store the firearm in a locked container.

House approves background checks that are more thorough

The Democratic-controlled Michigan House has been considering its own package of similar gun control bills.

The House passed legislation Wednesday night in a 56 to 53 vote. It would have required a criminal background check as well as registration for firearm purchases. This will expand the current requirements that only handgun sales are subject to to rifles and shotguns.

The legislation would allow for criminal background checks as well as firearm registration requirements for rifles and shotguns.