LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will gave final approval Monday afternoon to a red flag law that aims to keep firearms away from those at risk of harming themselves or others as the state grapples with ways to slow gun violence in the wake of its second mass school shootings.
Whitmer signed the legislation just outside of Detroit, with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, Attorney General Dana Nessel and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords all expected to be in attendance. Giffords began campaigning for gun safety after she was shot in the head in 2011 in Tucson, Arizona.
“No Michigander should fear going to school, work, the grocery store, or their own home because of gun violence,” said Governor Whitmer. “Extreme risk protection orders have been proven to reduce suicides, save lives, and keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and violent criminals. I am proud to sign this legislation to keep Michiganders safe, and I want to thank my partners in the legislature for getting this done, the advocates who fought so hard to make this happen, and every Michigander who works hard to build safe communities where everyone can thrive. Only thoughts and prayers aren’t enough. Let’s keep taking commonsense action to reduce gun violence and keep families and communities safe.”
“Too many Michiganders have lost people they love to the senseless tragedy of gun violence,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II. “Today, we are taking action to save lives, prevent tragedies, and protect communities. Extreme risk protection orders, safe storage laws, and universal background checks will save lives and help keep families and kids safe at home, in the streets, at school, and at work. Governor Whitmer and I will continue investing in public safety and working with anyone to prevent gun violence.”
Michigan will join Minnesota as the second state in under a week to implement a red flag law after Democrats in both states won control of both chambers and the governor’s office in November. New Mexico previously was the last state to pass a red flag law in 2020.
The new law, also known as extreme risk protection orders, is expected to go into effect next spring. It will allow family members, police, mental health professionals, roommates and former dating partners to petition a judge to remove firearms from those they believe pose an imminent threat to themselves or others.
The judge would have 24 hours to decide on a protection order after a request is filed. If granted, the judge would then have 14 days to set a hearing during which the flagged person would have to prove they do not pose a significant risk. A standard order would last one year.
Michigan will become the 21st state to implement a red flag law. Questions remain of whether the state will have better success in enforcing it than others have. An Associated Press analysis in September found that in the 19 states then with red flag laws, firearms were removed from people 15,049 times since 2020, fewer than 10 per 100,000 adult residents.
Some local sheriffs in Michigan have told The Associated Press that they won’t enforce the law if they don’t believe it’s constitutional. Over half of the state’s counties have passed resolutions declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries, opposing laws they believe infringe on gun rights.
The U.S. is on a record pace for mass shootings so far this year.
Gun violence within schools has rocked Michigan in recent years. A total of seven students have been killed, and 12 others injured, in school shootings at Oxford High School in 2021 and Michigan State University in 2023.
Earlier this month, two school districts in Michigan banned backpacks as a results of fears of firearms being brought into schools. The ban at Grand Rapids Public Schools came after a third-grader brought a loaded gun into the school.
The red flag law is the final piece of legislation to be signed in a sweeping 11-bill gun safety package advanced by Michigan Democrats following the Feb. 13 shooting at MSU. Safe storage and universal background checks were signed into law last month by Whitmer.
Michigan Democrats, who are in control of all levels of state government for the first time in 40 years, have indicated that they plan to advance further gun safety measures.
“I’m not going to get out in front of the Legislature. I want to see where their aptitude is and what their appetite is for doing more in the space,” Whitmer told the AP earlier this month when asked what gun measures she hoped to pass next. She added, “I do think it’s important that we continue to see what more we can do to keep people safe.”