Whitmer Signs Red Flag Law Opposed by Some Sheriffs in Michigan

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday afternoon signed a red flag law that aims to prevent individuals at risk of harming themselves or others from accessing firearms after a mass shooting earlier this year at Michigan State University, where three students lost their lives.

The law, commonly known as a red flag law or Extreme Risk Protection Order, empowers individuals close to someone to request a judge’s intervention to temporarily remove firearms if there is a perceived risk of harm to oneself or others.

Michigan now joins a group of more than a dozen states that have already implemented similar red flag laws. The legislation will come into effect 90 days after the conclusion of the current legislative session.

The bill signing ceremony took place near Detroit, where Whitmer was joined by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, Attorney General Dana Nessel, and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Giffords, who has been an advocate for gun safety since surviving a gunshot wound to the head in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011.

“Today, Michigan joins the ranks of other states that have enacted Extreme Risk Protection Orders. The time for only thoughts and prayers is over. We know that we cannot keep living like this. Action is needed to keep us safe.” Whitmer said in a statement.

“We’ve heard too many times how those who knew a mass shooter expressed concern in advance,” she continued. “We have seen situations where local police flagged someone but had no further course of action. With extreme risk protection orders, we have a mechanism to step in and save lives.”

The new law enables family members, police, mental health professionals, roommates, and former dating partners to petition a judge for the removal of firearms from individuals considered to be an immediate threat to themselves or others.

The judge must decide on a protection order within 24 hours of receiving the request. If granted, a hearing will be scheduled within 14 days, where the flagged individual must demonstrate they do not pose a significant risk. Typically, the protection order lasts for one year.

Sheriffs Oppose Law

Despite the bill’s signing, multiple sheriffs in the state have voiced opposition and declared their refusal to enforce the law.

The sheriff of Livingston County, for instance, publicly stated that red flag laws are unconstitutional and would not be upheld by his office.

Additionally, more than half of the counties in Michigan have passed resolutions declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries, asserting their opposition to the state laws they perceive as infringing upon their gun rights.

Republican lawmakers argued during debates over the bill that the new regulation would not have prevented the shooting at Michigan State University.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who was present at the signing of Senate Bill 83, indicated her commitment to ensuring the enforcement of red flag orders.

“For law enforcement officials who refuse to carry out these crucial orders, let me be unequivocal: I will diligently seek out individuals with the necessary jurisdiction to enforce these orders,” she said.

Michigan Democrats have pursued an 11-bill gun safety package in the wake of school shootings in recent years. The red flag law marks the final bill in that package.

School Shooting Michigan
School Shooting Michigan
Memorial items on the sign of Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., on Dec. 1, 2021. (Paul Sancya/AP Photo)

Seven students lost their lives, and 12 others sustained injuries, during school shootings at Oxford High School in 2021 and Michigan State University in 2023.

Backpacks were also banned by two Michigan school districts earlier this month over concerns they might be used to bring guns into schools. Grand Rapids Public Schools enacted the ban after a loaded gun was brought to school by a third-grader.

Whitmer had previously signed laws for safe storage and universal background checks into effect last month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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