GOP leader plans hearing on ‘red flag’ gun proposal
Lansing — Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey plans to hold at least one public committee hearing on “red flag” gun legislation despite his own skepticism over the need for an extreme risk confiscation law.
The powerful Clarklake Republican described plans for a future hearing during a recent radio interview, and a spokeswoman confirmed the potential Tuesday as hundreds of gun rights supporters rallied outside the Michigan Capitol.
“Sen. Shirkey did have a discussion and make a commitment” to sponsoring Democratic Sen. Rosemary Bayer of Beverly Hills, said Amber McCann, who noted there is no timeline for when a hearing might be scheduled.
The three-bill package would allow police to seize guns from an individual if a court has issued an “extreme risk protection order” after determining there is reasonable cause to believe the person will harm themselves or others.
Democrats introduced the legislation in February and have continued to push for action in the wake of recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.
Bayer said she does not expect any hearing on the bills until after lawmakers complete work on the 2020 state budget, which must be finalized by the end of September to avoid a government shutdown.
“This is a really, really important issue for all of us,” she said of Democratic efforts to maintain momentum for the legislation. “We’re going to continue to talk about it every day.”
In a radio interview last month, Shirkey said he’ll use any hearings on the legislation to explore whether it is needed or would simply create duplicative or redundant laws.
“I maintain that law enforcement and citizens already have a fair amount of latitude if they identify somebody who they think may be in trouble because they’re either going to harm themselves or harm somebody else,” Shirkey said on WKHM radio in Jackson.
Rep. Robert Wittenberg, D-Huntington Woods, has pushed similar legislation in the House, but Republicans who control the chamber have not committed to any public hearings.
The Senate package is sponsored by Sens. Bayer, Mallory McMorrow of Royal Oak and Erika Geiss of Taylor. The bills were referred to the Senate Government Operations Committee, which Shirkey chairs.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, noted public opinion polls showing support for red flag gun laws, which he called “one step” in a larger effort to curb mass shootings.
“We’re getting numb to the fact that our children and our families are not safe … when they leave the house” Ananich said Tuesday. “I think there should be some assurance that if you should not have a gun, there’s a way you should not have one.”
The Michigan proposal would allow family members or law enforcement officers to file a request in circuit court for an extreme risk protection order that would temporarily ban an individual from possessing firearms.
The court would make a reasonable cause finding based on testimony, documents or other evidence. Judges could issue an order without informing the defendant if they determine a delay would lead to “immediate and irreparable” injury.
Republican President Donald Trump expressed some support for red flag gun laws last month. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, is expected to introduce legislation that would create an incentive for states to adopt such measures.
But gun rights activists gathered outside the Michigan Capitol criticized red flag policies like those in Florida as a threat to law-abiding citizens guaranteed due process under the law. At least one activist held a sign criticizing such laws.
“Everyone agrees that there are people who shouldn’t have firearms,” said Tom Lambert, president of Michigan Open Carry Inc.
But there’s already a process to address those situations, he argued, citing traditional protection orders and law enforcement's ability to lock up a person who poses an imminent threat.
Lambert called the red flag proposal “the biggest bait and switch” in Lansing and welcomed the opportunity to make his case in a legislative hearing.
“They say there’s due process, but there’s no due process,” Lambert said. “The standard to issue one of these orders, reasonable suspicion, is an immensely low standard.”
Matthew Shepard, a 51-year-old from Perry who carried a 9-mm pistol on his hip, expressed fear red flag gun laws could be used against veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and could be “the major downfall of our nation.”
“If they go against every veteran with PTSD, that would be a huge infringement upon our rights,” he said.