LANSING — State Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Oak Park) introduced new legislation to allow judges to issue protective orders for individuals that law enforcement or family members assert pose a threat. His proposal would target those individuals who pose a clear and present risk of harm to themselves or others, but who are not otherwise restricted from purchasing or possessing guns. Wittenberg was joined at a press conference today by representatives from Moms Demand Action, the Michigan Coalition Against Gun Violence and Kim Miles representing the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.
“This legislation is about public safety. If someone has made threats of violence or suicide, it only makes sense to take those threats seriously,” Wittenberg said. “By following a court process to only temporarily limit access to guns for these individuals, we can better protect our families and communities. This legislation would give us another tool to try and prevent more senseless tragedies.”
The Extreme Risk Protection Order would allow a family member, a federal law enforcement officer or a local law enforcement officer to ask the courts to issue a protection order against a person who poses a significant risk of personal injury to him or herself or others by possessing a firearm. The court would have to consider testimony, documents and other evidence in support of the request, including whether the person had previously inflicted or threatened to inflict personal injury or harm to others and any other facts the court deems relevant. Under the order, law enforcement could possess the individual’s firearm, and the individual would be prohibited from purchasing new firearms while the order is in effect. The order could be in effect for no longer than a year from the date it was issued.
Currently, four states have this type of a law in place. Connecticut and Indiana have longstanding laws that allow law enforcement to petition the courts to temporarily remove an individual’s access to firearms. California passed its law, known as both the Gun Violence Restraining Order and Firearms Restraining Order, in 2014. The state of Washington passed similar legislation through a statewide ballot initiative with overwhelming support in November 2016. A study by Jeffrey Swanson, a psychiatry professor at Duke University’s School of Medicine, and nine other researchers, found that in Connecticut, similar policies for high-risk people contributed to the prevention of up to 100 suicides.
“We must step up our efforts to protect our communities from this kind of violence,” Wittenberg said. “This is a sensible proposal that tries to prevent unnecessary tragedies and protect citizens without trampling on our Second Amendment rights.”
Wittenberg added that a law such as the one he is proposing may also help prevent workplace violence, domestic violence, suicides and other shooting deaths. Developing practical, effective and legally sustainable policies to separate firearms from people at risk of violence or suicide represents an important, but challenging public health opportunity for gun violence prevention in the United States.