KALAMAZOO — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a package of bills preventing those who’ve committed misdemeanor domestic violence offenses from possessing firearms for a period of time after conviction.
The bills prohibit anyone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense from owning a firearm or ammunition for 8 years following the payment of all related fines and completion of incarceration or probation conditions.
The package also expands the amount of actions included under a charge of misdemeanor domestic violence-related offenses in Michigan. People convicted of felony domestic violence are already prohibited from firearm ownership under federal law.
Whitmer signed the bills into law at the Young Women’s Christian Association in Kalamazoo with a host of gun safety and domestic violence prevention groups. Various gun safety advocacy groups, including Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, attended the event in support of the measures.
“It’s just common sense,” Whitmer said at the event. An average of 70 women in the U.S. are shot and killed by their partner per month, Whitmer said. Women who are pregnant or recently gave birth are even more likely to be shot and killed by their partner, she added.
“We know that violence is a uniquely American problem in this country and only in this country,” Whitmer said. “Today we’re fighting for our vision for a stronger, safer Michigan.”
Advocates said the legislation would save lives once put into effect next year.
In Kalamazoo County, 50% of women killed were killed by a partner, said Demetrias Wolverton, interim director of the YWCA, The presence of a firearm in an abusive relationship increases the chance of homicide by 500%, he added.
Rick and Martha Omilian, whose daughter Maggie Wardle was killed by a former partner with a firearm in 1999, voiced their support for the package.
“We know that somehow if Maggie had gotten out of that room that night, she would have had the chance to use a law like this one to be protected from her abuser,” Rick Omalian said.
“This law,” Rick said, “will save someone’s life and give them a chance to live a full meaningful life — the chance Maggie did not.”
According to the FBI, there were over 340 domestic violence homicides in Michigan between 2003 and 2012.
Speakers also highlighted several other gun control measures passed into law earlier this year following the shooting at Michigan State University. These regulations establish “red flag” laws, institute universal background checks for gun purchases and transfers require gun owners to keep firearms safely secured in homes and vehicles.
“We’ve taken great strides in Michigan to make this a safer place with some common sense gun safety legislation informed by responsible gun owners, law enforcement and Moms Demand Action,” she said.
The laws will go into effect on Feb. 13, 2023. Whitmer said she didn’t have any further specific gun control proposals on her legislative agenda.
“I anticipate that there will always be more opportunities to improve or refine our laws, but at this juncture, I think now’s the moment to look back on the last year and say, ‘wow, we’ve come a long way,” she said.