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    In the United States, the right to bare arms is one of the most controversial and debated rights of the 21st century. This controversy stems from the fact that many citizens have abused this second amendment right and have used their rights to harm others, taking away their victim’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. After the assassinations of President John Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed to impose stricter regulation on the firearm industry, establish new categories of firearm offenses, and prohibit the sale of firearms to those who could pose harm to others.

    According to Michigan law, a firearm is defined as “any weapon which will, is designed to, or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by action of an explosive.” Act 372 of 1927 outlines the regulations for licensing firearms to citizens of the state of Michigan. In order to obtain a firearm, federally licensed dealers must perform a background check on their customers. This law does not apply to private sellers. When federally licensed dealers issue licenses for firearms, or sell firearms, there are rules they must abide by. These include keeping copies of records and licenses that are issued. It is also illegal for individuals with criminal or federal charges pending at the time of application to obtain a firearm. Furthermore, if a person is judged to be legally incapacitated or have a mental illness, they are prohibited from the purchase of firearms.

     

    Not only does Michigan law outline the regulations for obtaining a firearm, they also outline proper storage and maintenance of firearms. Gun owners must have ammunition knowledge, know the fundamentals of shooting a pistol, pistol shooting positions, and understand the laws regarding firearms. In order to obtain a gun in the state of Michigan, gun owners must have a trigger lock or other device that has the ability to disable the firearm to prevent discharge and a commercially available gun case or safe to keep the firearm out of reach of children and others. Proof of this type of protection is required before any firearm can be issued to an individual in Michigan.

     

    State Senator Rebekah Warren recently introduced a series of bills aiming to amend the current gun regulations in the state of Michigan, making the law stricter for people who want to obtain firearms. First, Senate Bills 478, 479, and 480 were introduced in September of 2015 to amend the licensing laws to not only include background checks for pistols but for all firearms. Second, Senator Warren introduced Senate Bill 665 in December of 2015 to create stricter punishments if a firearm is not properly stored or maintained in the state of Michigan. Third, she introduced Senate Bill 666 in December of 2015 that would make it a crime if a child obtained a firearm due to improper storage and injured either themselves or others. The owner of the firearm would be charged with a felony and a $5,000 fine, jail time, or both. Finally, Senator Warren introduced Senate Bill 810 in February of 2016 that would prohibit anyone on the Federal Terrorist Watch List from obtaining a firearm. All of these bills have been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee and are awaiting a hearing before they can move further in the legislature.

     

    In order to get these bills through the committee and to a vote in the Senate, Senator Warren spoke to the Michigan State Senate on February 23rd, 2016. In her speech, Senator Warren urged her colleagues to help with the progression of the bills she is trying to pass regarding firearm regulations. According to Senator Warren, more people are injured or die in the state of Michigan due to shootings than in traffic accidents. However, Senator Warren emphasized that we do not regulate firearms as strictly as we do vehicles in Michigan. Nationally, every year 30,000 Americans die from gun related incidents and more than 70,000 are injured. Senator Warren noted that just in the week before her speech six different shootings occurred in Michigan, two of those involved children who obtained firearms that were not properly stored. Senator Warren urged her colleagues to hold hearings in committee to further these bills. The hearings have not yet occurred.

     

    Many conservative citizens in the State of Michigan believe that these laws hinder their federal right to bare arms. However, Senator Warren believes that these bills both protect the second amendment right to bare arms and keep the citizens of the state of Michigan safe from harm. In Colorado and California, laws very similar to the bills Senator Warren has introduced have been extremely successful in preventing firearm related incidents. In the states that have implemented these laws, the rate of unintentional shooting decreased by 23%, and continues to decrease. According to the Pew Research Center, 85% of Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, believe that before any gun is sold there needs to be a required background check. Although Americans do not want their Second Amendment right taken from them, something needs to be done to protect the citizens of the state of Michigan from the harm of intentional and unintentional shootings. Senator Warren’s bills will both protect the rights of our citizens and protect them from injuries or death from the misuse of firearms. In her speech to the Senate, Senator Warren explained the impact and changes these bills will make and why this should be a priority for the Senate. To protect the citizens of the state of Michigan, it is crucial to see these bills move through the legislature and become law.

     

    Resources:
    Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. “Gun Control Act of 1968”. ATF. 11. August 2015. Web. 25. February. 2016, https://www.atf.gov/rules-and-regulations/gun-control-act
    Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Gun Violence Statistics”. 11. May. 2015. Web. 25. February. 2016, http://smartgunlaws.org/category/gun-studies-statistics/gun-violence-statistics/
    Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Success Stories for Safer Communities”. 5. July. 2014. Web. 25. Feb. 2016, http://smartgunlaws.org/category/gun-studies-statistics/gun-violence-success-stories/
    Michigan Legislature. “Firearm Laws of Michigan”. 1. December 2015. Web. 25. February. 2016, https://www.legislature.mi.gov/Publications/Firearms.pdf
    Pew Research Center. “Continued Bipartisan Support for Expanded Background Checks on Gun Sales”. 13. August 2015. Web. 25. Feb. 2016, http://www.people-press.org/2015/08/13/continued-bipartisan-support-for-expanded-background-checks-on-gun-sales/
    Senator Warren’s Senate Speech, 23. February 2016: https://www.dropbox.com/s/vy55esi19d2jpvn/2_23_16%20Warren%20Gun%20Floor%20Speech.mov?oref=e

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