Safe Storage of Firearms in Michigan

Approximately 60% of Americans believe that gun violence is a major problem in the United States. While many people see gun violence as a danger to themselves and their families, there is less agreement on what should be done to stop it.

For its part, Michigan recently passed a collection of new laws set to go into effect on February 13, 2024, aimed at tackling gun violence. This includes a universal background check law and a “red flag” law, which allows a court to confiscate a person’s guns following a court hearing if that person presents a danger to others.

Another law imposes restrictions on the storage of firearms in the home. With this law set to go into effect February 13th, 2024, it’s important for gun owners in Michigan to prepare now for these safe storage practices.

Michigan’s new firearm storage law is found in Senate Bill No. 79. This bill begins by requiring someone who has a firearm at home to safely store that firearm if they know or have reason to know that a minor child will be on the premises. 

Under the law, it does not matter whether you are related to the child or if the child lives in your home. A “minor child” under the law is any child under the age of 18 years.

For instance, suppose that you and your spouse or partner do not have any minor children living at home. However, you invite your friends over for a cookout, and you know that they have a minor child. You would likely be subject to the safe storage law even if your friends did not specifically mention they would be bringing their child.

Under the law, you must safely store your firearms in one of two ways. First, you can store the firearm in a locked container or other box. Otherwise, the firearm must be left unloaded and with a locking tool that prevents anyone other than you or an authorized adult user.

Here are other key elements of this law that you need to know.

Under Michigan’s new law, you can still be responsible for safe storage if you visit the home of another person where there is or could be a minor child. For instance, if you are invited to a friend’s home, and you know they have a minor child living at home, you must safely store your gun if you choose to bring it with you.

In this scenario, you might store the firearm in your vehicle while at your friend’s house.

Failing to store a firearm properly is a misdemeanor that could result in up to 93 days in jail or a $500 fine. This penalty applies if you did not safely store your firearm and a child possesses or displays your gun in a public place or to another person carelessly, recklessly, or in a threatening manner.

The penalties increase from this point. If a child fires the gun and hurts someone, you can be found guilty of a felony and punished by up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. 

Additionally, if someone is seriously impaired in a shooting committed by a minor who gains access to your gun because it was improperly stored, you could face up to ten years in prison and up to $7,500 in fines.

Finally, if you fail to safely store your gun according to the law and a child gains access to it and kills someone, you could face up to 15 years in prison. You could also be fined no more than $15,000.

Several exceptions written into the law would excuse someone from liability. For example, you are not liable if a minor child gains access to your gun and uses it to defend themselves or someone else from attack.

The law does not give gun owners much discretion when it comes to the types of locking devices or locked containers that can be used. The new law defines both of these terms. This means that if your way of securing your firearm does not meet these two definitions, you could still be found guilty of violating the law.

Under the law, the term “locked box or container” refers to a fully enclosed container specifically designed to store a firearm. It must be secured with a padlock, key lock, combination lock, or some other locking device so that a minor child cannot gain access to the container.

Thus, under the definition, the glove box or trunk of your car arguably does not constitute a locked box or container as legally defined, even if you were able to lock these areas. This is because neither is specifically designed to store a firearm. Similarly, a container your child knew the combination to could also fail to meet the definition of a locked box or container.

The term “locking device” is meant to refer to a trigger lock, cable lock, or some other device that makes the firearm incapable of being used. Although not specifically mentioned in the law, it would seem to follow that a device that a minor child knows how to unlock or disable would not meet the intent of the law.

Also, no locking device meets the statutory definition if you leave your firearm loaded. You could still face liability if, for example, you use a trigger lock but leave your gun loaded.

Gun owners have little time left to ensure they are ready to comply with the new law. If you have children in your home or if children visit your home, consider:

  • Purchasing a container, box, or locking device that meets the statute’s definitions
  • Storing your firearm out of sight and in a place inaccessible to children
  • Avoiding storing your weapon near ammunition
  • Teaching your child safe and responsible gun handling when appropriate
  • Using a container or box if you intend to keep your gun loaded for self-defense

If you do not have children in your home but intend to carry your firearm with you, be mindful of places you go where children might be present. Picking up your child from school could result in liability if you leave your vehicle unlocked and a child gains access to your unsecured gun.

If you are facing a gun-related charge in Michigan, you are in a delicate legal position. Before accepting any plea that could potentially tarnish your criminal record and jeopardize your civil rights, it’s vital to speak with a Michigan criminal defense lawyer at the Law Office of John Freeman. 

Our experienced and dedicated criminal defense team can fight hard to protect your rights, even in the face of new laws like Senate Bill No. 79. To learn more about Michigan’s changing laws or to find out what we can do for your case, contact us to schedule a consultation today.