State lawmakers are giving final approval on some of their efforts at gun reforms, but not everyone is convinced those efforts will be successful.
A Traverse City attorney who specializes in gun rights says that he doesn’t think the gun reforms in Lansing will hold up in court, and could be tied up in legal challenges for years.
“There’s always a lot of emotions involved and people are scrambling to do something. And then you have opportunistic politicians who try to use the event in the timeframe to get as much of their agenda passed as possible,” said David Bieganowski, a Traverse City attorney with a background in gun rights. “Some of these latest gun control bills, they were proposed by the Governor in her State of the State address, you know, a week or 10 days prior to the MSU event. So they were already on the shelf, ready to go as soon as the Democrats control of both houses and the governorship.”
Gun reforms are a hot topic in Lansing. But some critics think lawmakers are going off half-cocked, showing a lack of careful thought.
As a firearms attorney, Bieganowski says he’s seen legislation like this before. “I’m a CPL instructor, a marine veteran, firearms instructor and a firearms attorney.”
And he says lawmakers are shooting blanks. He believes these bills, and other gun reforms like it up for discussion in Lansing, are likely to end up in court even if they pass and are signed by the Governor. “Emotional things don’t stand up to scrutiny and logic, whatsoever. They don’t produce the results that the people think they’re going to produce. And they’re bad public policy and they normally die.”
Passage of “safe storage” firearm laws in Michigan would require gun owners to keep weapons locked around children. “Everybody who has an unattended firearm has to have it locked up if it’s accessible to a minor. (But) that’s a clear violation of the Second Amendment. The Firearms Amendment says your gun is available in case of confrontation. If your gun is locked up, you know, bad guys don’t make appointments. You know, you need to have your gun loaded and accessible on the ready,” he says. “The safe storage - what is the problem we’re trying to solve here? I mean, it sounds reasonable, but people call it common sense. No, no, it’s not.”
He adds, “you have to keep them inaccessible to unauthorized users, kids and whoever. But a law saying you must lock them up. I mean, the Heller case from Washington, D.C., our Supreme Court said trigger locks, inoperable guns is unconstitutional. So the jurisprudence of the Second Amendment has surpassed this law. It’s not going to survive a day.”
He has the same criticism for proposals aimed at keeping guns away from polling places.
“It’s just so encompassing. The public streets, public sidewalks. What do you do? You know, guns at polling places have never been a problem. And yeah, we’re going to this early voting thing. There could be up to 40 days prior to the election. And if that happens three times a year, because you have three elections, that’s 120 days out of the year, you can’t get anywhere near wherever this particular polling places? Which is often government buildings and townships and schools,” he says.
And he says proposed Red Flag laws are also missing the mark.
“They have not been doing well in the courts either. If somebody is committing a crime or committing violence, they should be arrested, charged and locked up. This is some lesser way they take people’s guns away using the standard of proof in a civil proceeding. Yet the sanctions and punishments are criminal level punishments. We take away all your firearms. We take away your Second Amendment rights under a preponderance of the evidence standard, which is 51% versus 49%. You know, criminal standard is beyond a reasonable doubt. There’s no evidence of a crime. You don’t have to have been violent. Somebody turns you in and says you’re likely to hurt yourself or them or whatever. And again, we don’t focus on the individual for some reason. We’re not getting them any help if they have a mental instability, they don’t get any help. We just take their guns away.
“We leave them in the community and now they’re pissed off and they don’t have their guns. You’re probably throwing gas on the fire. In this situation, the due process is very weak and these laws do take away a fundamental right. Which, our Supreme Court says the Second Amendment is not a second class right. It is, it deserves all the same protections as any other in the Bill of Rights. You’re guilty until proven innocent. This could all happen without you even knowing about it. You won’t even get a hearing until after the fact. And in some of these cases the due process elements are not there.”
“It’s just a bad situation. If the sheriff’s department has to go in and take your guns away, the heightened level of, you know, confrontation… or they’re going to go to the wrong house. It’s just a lot of bad things happen, bad things. They can take the guns away from people and the house you live in, even if they’re not your guns. And then that person has to go to court to get their own guns back.”
Bieganowski says some of the new laws are unnecessary.
“We have laws now. If somebody is a threat to themselves or others, Michigan’s always had a law that says they can take you into custody. But in Michigan, they have to take you to a mental health professional and get you help. Okay. That’s how it works. Now… they just take your guns away and call it a day? That doesn’t make any sense to me,” he says.
He says these laws passing actually be a good thing for staunch 2nd Amendment supporters.
“A lot of these bad laws, like the ones that they’re ramming through because they have the political power now, are going to make good law for people that support the Second Amendment. Because they’re so bad that we’re going to be challenged, they’re going to get overturned, and the language of those cases are going to make it harder for them to do anything close to this again.”
He adds, “the Democrats have had these sitting on the shelf for a while. This is on their wish list of they got all drafted, but they’ve been on the shelf a little too long because last summer in a case called the New York Rifle Pistol Association versus Bruen, we call it the Bruen case. Our Supreme Court, the US Supreme Court basically changed the jurisprudence of the Second Amendment… if it restricts the right to keep and bear arms, it’s done.”
He says legal challenges could trigger years of debate in the courts.
Another idea he’s critical of: adding long guns to the registration requirement (like pistols) when a buyer makes a gun purchase.
“They want to add rifles and shotguns, and they did it so inartfully. Apparently, they don’t read their own legislation. Is that all rifles and pistols that are currently owned by people have to go through this process. So they didn’t grandfather anything. So if I owned 10 rifles or grandpa’s, you know, a hunting rifle and a shotgun, I’ve got to go to the police station and get a purchase permit, you know, bring it back, fill it out and have it or I can’t possess my existing long guns.”
Even background checks raise concerns for Bieganowski.
“This isn’t about public safety. This isn’t about, you know, preventing crimes. It’s never been proven that background checks prevent crimes. Criminals don’t get their guns through legitimate means. They don’t go to a gun store and buy it and go through a background check. That’s not how they do it. So, you know, what are we trying to solve here? Shotguns are involved in less than 1% of all crimes, rifles, 3% or less of all crimes. Why is that even on the radar? Why is that even being proposed if you’re trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist? So it’s a public safety matter? No, that’s not the reason we’re doing it. Is it crime prevention? It doesn’t prevent crimes.” Bieganowski believes there are ulterior motives. “They’re doing it for other reasons, which ultimately has always been the Liberal’s dream is to create a gun registry so they know where the guns are and who has them. So when later on they can take advantage of some other political situation to confiscate firearms.” He adds, “This isn’t about public safety. This is about scaring people and using the opportunity of the mass shooting and their complete control of government to ram through their legislation. And from I understand from talking to my legislators, they’re not doing committee hearings as normal. They’re not taking testimony from both sides. They’re just ramming this through this, suspending the rules vote, take it to the Governor so as fast as they can.”