LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Michigan lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are hoping to make changes to the current felony firearms statute.
It’s one of the last to carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years automatically, even if the weapon wasn’t used or threatened during the commission of a separate felony.
That’s why now, two Michigan representatives, one from each side of the aisle, are looking to change that.
“What we’re proposing I think is what most people assume happens today,” said Republican Luke Meerman from the 88th district. “That’s if you commit a felony and you’re charged with felony firearm that you’ve actually used the firearm in the commission of the felony.
“If you do use the gun, brandish it, refer to it, say that you’re going to use it, it’s still a two-year felony, if you don’t use it, it’s in the glove box, you never refer to it, or it’s in the upstairs bedroom of the house, never been threatened of being used, then the judge has the discretion.”
The bill’s cosponsor, Kyra Bolden is a Democrat. She’s pleased it’s getting support from Republicans.
“I am very happy and encouraged this is a bipartisan bill,” said Bolden, from the 35th district. “We have a multitude of groups that are on board with this type of legislation from all spectrums of our political process.”
On top of that, the felony firearms laws have been shown to disproportionately affect the black community.
“When you do have something like felony firearm where 80 percent of the people convicted with the crime are Black Americans, that deserves particular attention.”
Mike Lynn is the founder of The Advocates Firearms Academy, a place where people can get a concealed weapons permit free of charge. He’s been pushing for this type of change for years and is glad it’s being introduced, but more than that, he says he wants people to see the big picture.
“The direction I want to see more is that people understood why,” Lynn said. “When people hear this they think they’re being light on criminals or want to let criminals go, I hear that over and over again.
“This bill they’re trying to change that law, I wish more people would understand why they want to change that law and that it’s not just that they want to free criminals because that’s not it.”
The idea to remove mandatory penalties for just having a gun present during a felony isn’t anything new.
In fact, Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon said last summer that her office would no longer automatically charge for felony firearms.
It’s a policy Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wigglesworth has called “Garbage.”
“I don’t want anybody here to think I’m looking to fill the Ingham County jail,” he said last August. “That’s actually the last thing I want to do. But there have to be consequences.”
Lynn says the problem is this charge is mandatory even when a gun has nothing to do with the crime.
“It doesn’t give any room, because the judge doesn’t have any leniency to not give you any time, or to give you some type of diversionary program,” he said. “So it’s really kind of a double jeopardy type of situation.”
He says historically, that’s been a problem right here in Lansing.
“These kids are living in a war zone for the most part,” Lynn said. “Some kids don’t want to be felons, they don’t want to shoot or be shot at but they have to protect themselves so they’re carrying.”
There’s still no timetable as for when this may happen, but Meerman and Bolden, the bill’s cosponsors, say they hope it can make it to the house floor for a vote next month.