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State extends firearm ban to domestic violence perpetrators

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Democrats who have transformed gun laws in the state in the wake of multiple mass school shootings are now making it more difficult for individuals with convictions for misdemeanor domestic violence from gaining access to guns.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation Monday that prohibits individuals convicted of a misdemeanor related to domestic violence from possessing firearms for at least an eight-year-period. State law currently includes firearm restrictions for those with felonies related to domestic abuse, but no law had existed for misdemeanor domestic violence.

“These bills are based on a simple idea: if you have been found guilty in court for violently assaulting your partner, you should not be able to access a deadly weapon that you could use to further threatened, harm or kill them.” Whitmer said at a bill signing in Kalamazoo. “It’s just common sense.”

The eight-year ban for misdemeanor domestic violence convictions is only the latest firearm restriction added to Michigan law since Democrats took control of both chambers of the state Legislature and retained the governor’s office last election.

Legislation implementing red flag laws, stricter background checks and safe storage requirements were all signed by Whitmer earlier this year. The overhauled gun laws follow two deadly mass school shootings that happened in Michigan within a 14-month period.

Democratic State Sen. Stephanie Chang, a lead sponsor of the bill package, said Monday that the latest legislation would put Michigan in line with similar laws in 31 other states and the District of Columbia.

Federal law already prohibits those charged with felonies or misdemeanors related to domestic violence from purchasing or possessing a gun. But advocates have pushed for state-level laws that they say can be better enforced and won’t be threatened by future Supreme Court rulings.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court took up a challenge to a federal law that prohibits people from having guns if they are under a court order to stay away from their spouse, partner or other family members. The nation’s high court heard arguments on Nov. 7 and seemed likely to preserve the federal law.

“As the Supreme Court weighs whether to uphold common-sense laws to disarm domestic abusers, Governor Whitmer and the Michigan legislature are taking a clear stand: If you have a history of intimate partner violence, you have no business owning a gun,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement.

Firearms are the most common weapon used in homicides of spouses, intimate partners, children or relatives in recent years, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Guns were used in more than half, 57%, of those killings in 2020, a year that saw an overall increase in domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the legislation signed Monday in Michigan, people convicted of a misdemeanor that involved domestic violence will be not allowed to purchase, possess, or use a firearm or ammunition until they have completed the terms of imprisonment, paid all fines and eight years had passed.

The parents of Maggie Wardle, a 19-year-old shot and killed by an ex-boyfriend at Kalamazoo College in 1999, spoke in support of the legislation at Monday’s signing.

“This law, now passed and signed into law today, will save someone’s life and give them the chance to live a full meaningful life, the chance Maggie did not get,” Rick Omillian, Maggie’s stepfather, said Monday.

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