Legislation would close dangerous gaps in state law by keeping deadly weapons out of the hands of convicted abusers

LANSING, Mich., Sept, 7, 2023 — State Rep. Amos O’Neal (D-Saginaw) and Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) introduced House Bills 4945 and 4946 and Senate Bills 471 and 472 to modify the state’s penal code to protect domestic violence survivors by preventing those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes from possessing, using, purchasing or carrying a firearm in Michigan for eight years. This legislation mirrors federal law and would strengthen domestic violence protections in Michigan, helping prevent firearm injury and death.

“I have been working with domestic and gun violence prevention experts for years to address the issue of domestic violence and firearms, because too many survivors face dramatically increased risk from their abusers,” said Sen. Chang. “We’ve seen how firearms and domestic violence are a dangerous combination, yet our current state laws leave open a loophole that can be exploited by abusers to obtain a firearm and wreak deadly havoc. This legislation has had bipartisan support for many years and serves as a common-sense solution to the problem and will protect survivors in our state from further abuse.”

When domestic abusers have access to guns, the effects can be deadly:

  • Up to one in three Michigan families are impacted by domestic violence.
  • According to the FBI, there were 341 domestic violence homicides in Michigan from 2003 to 2012, which include both male and female victims. Of those homicides, more than half of the victims — 51.3 percent — were killed with guns.
  • Nearly half of all women murdered in the United States are killed by a current or former intimate partner, and more than half of these intimate partner homicides are by firearm.
  • Access to a firearm makes it five times more likely an abusive partner will kill their female victim.

“Our daughter was shot and killed by an intimate partner, and while nothing can bring her back or undo the pain our family has gone through, this common-sense bill would help create a safer future where no family has to experience what ours has,” said Rick and Martha Omilian, volunteers with the Michigan chapter of Moms Demand Action whose daughter Maggie Wardle, was shot and killed in 1999 at age 19 by an ex-boyfriend. “We are so grateful our lawmakers are standing up and taking action to protect victims of domestic violence and intimate partner violence.”

The bills would bring Michigan law into partial alignment with current federal protections, allowing state and local prosecutors to enforce misdemeanor domestic crime prohibitions. Currently under state law, only individuals convicted of felonies are prohibited from possessing, using, purchasing or carrying a firearm after serving their sentence and satisfying the terms of their imprisonment, parole or probation. After the eight-year period, those convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor would regain the opportunity to possess, use, purchase or carry a firearm under state law.

“We’ve made historic progress this year to combat gun violence in our state. At the Capitol, we continue our work to keep Michigan communities and families safe,” said state Rep. Amos O’Neal (D- Saginaw). “I’ve introduced this legislation in previous terms, and it was as relevant then as it is now. Survivors of domestic violence have endured enough. We must put in safeguards that will keep deadly firearms out of the hands of convicted abusers. We must move this legislation forward and continue its momentum towards the governor’s desk.”

Over the past several years, 32 states, including numerous Republican-led legislatures and Washington, D.C., have passed new laws designed to protect women, children and other survivors of domestic violence by ensuring convicted misdemeanor domestic abusers cannot access, own or possess firearms. In previous sessions, these bills were introduced as a bipartisan package and previous sponsors included Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) and Rep. Mary Whiteford (R-Casco Twp).