With a newly-elected Democratic-majority legislature, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer seeks to enact sweeping new gun-control legislation that was previously not possible under a Republican-led House and Senate.
“It’s new territory for a lot of people,” Whitmer told Bridge Michigan. “I’m excited about what I think we’re going to get done.”
The incumbent governor won re-election to a second term after defeating her Republican challenger, conservative political commentator Tudor Dixon, by a vote margin of 10.6 percent.
All 110 seats in Michigan were up for election in 2022. Prior to the midterm elections, the Great Lakes State had a divided government, with Democrats controlling the governorship and Republicans controlling both chambers of the state legislature.
The governor highlighted the tragic school shooting at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021, where 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley murdered four students and injured seven people, including a teacher, with a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun. Crumbley pleaded guilty to all the charges in October 2022.
“I do believe that you will all of a sudden see a very different environment in Lansing where the Oxford families and advocates will have the ability to make their voices heard and to inform and drive the policy change that this current legislature has completely shut the door to,” Whitmer said.
The GOP-dominated legislature was previously able to block Democratic gun-control bills such as Senate Bill No. 856 (pdf), a “red flag law” which would allow a judge to authorize police to seize guns deemed a risk to themselves or others. Another blocked bill (pdf) would have required gun owners with children to store their firearms in a secure lockbox.
Offenders would face a $5,000 fine and/or five years imprisonment if they failed to secure a weapon that a minor uses to injure or kill themselves or others.
‘Individual Over the State’
Incoming State Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt criticized such gun control measures by the Democrats. In a separate interview with Bridge Michigan, Nesbitt said that he would fight against any initiative which sought to limit individual freedom.
“I believe in the individual over the state, and it’s unfortunate that Democrats are trying to look for ways to limit individual’s liberty and freedom,” he said.
In January 2021, Whitmer called for a ban on all weapons inside the Michigan State Capitol. The governor also called for a ban on bump stocks and joined 11 other governors in calling for stricter gun control legislation. In order to pass her gun control initiatives in Michigan, Whitmer will need every Democrat in the legislature onboard.