State Democrats introduce ‘red flag’ gun control bills

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Democrats in the Michigan House and Senate introduced bills on Thursday that would allow law enforcement officials to remove guns before a crisis happens, as part of an extreme risk protection order.

State Representative Robert Wittenberg says while previous red flag bills never successfully became law, he believes there is more bipartisan support for bills like this due to mass shootings that got national attention in the last year, such as the Parkland shooting.

“I look forward to working with all of my colleagues in the legislature and the Governor’s office and throughout the state to make sure our communities are safe, and residents get the help when they need it, in the moment,” State Senator Rosemary Bayer said on Thursday.

Under an extreme risk protection order, immediate family members and law enforcement officials can present evidence to a judge that someone shouldn’t have access to firearms because they pose a risk to themselves or others. The judge would then give officers permission to confiscate any firearms from that person, and prevent them from buying any more.

One advocate says she wishes she had a bill like this in 2014, the year her father died from a suicide by firearm. Celeste Kanpurwala says she saw the red flags and believes this law would have saved his life. 

“Ninety percent of the time when you attempt suicide by gun, the suicide is completed,” Kanpurwala said, “whereas ninety percent of the time with another means it is not. So my father is a perfect example of those two and how lethal a gun can be.”

Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth says a law like this could make seizing those weapons safer for law enforcement officials as well. 

But he doesn’t expect the bill to result in mass confiscations of guns if it does pass and become law.

“I think these are going to be very very uncommon,” Wriggelsworth said, “but they’re gonna be used for those that are on the brink of either doing harm to themselves or in our community. And those are the exact situations where we need to have some sort of ability, lawfully, to do this type of stuff. And it sounds like this legislation would give us that.”

A media spokesperson for the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners says red flag bills like the ones introduced today are essentially “legalized swatting,” and would not do enough to help the individuals and families affected.

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