The Gongwer Blog

Chang: Removing Firearm Manufacturer Immunity Still On Table

By Nick Smith
Staff Writer
Posted: April 17, 2023 7:36 AM

Legislation that would remove immunity provisions in statute for firearm manufacturers and dealers is being crafted and still expected to be put forward in the months ahead, the chair of the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee said in a recent interview.

Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) said the proposal is still on the table after it was briefly part of the discussion while lawmakers weighed recently passed firearms legislation. Her comments come as Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed the first two gun bill packages, mandatory locked storage when a child is present and expanded background checks, with another soon to land on her desk enabling judges to order the seizure of firearms from those they deem a significant risk to themselves or others.

"We'll see more gun violence bills that will do a lot of good," Ms. Chang said.

An item she said that will return in standalone legislation is a proposal that would remove immunity provisions in statute for firearm manufacturers and dealers.

Language was included in the safe storage legislation that was reported from the Senate committee, but it was removed prior to final passage when taken up for a vote in the full chamber (See Gongwer Michigan Report, March 16, 2023).

"We do want to tackle manufacturer immunity," Ms. Chang said.

She explained that it was removed with the intent of working on crafting stronger, tighter language to "lay out very clearly what a manufacturer is liable for."

She said legislation is also expected to be reintroduced this session that would prohibit those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses from possessing firearms for several years. Similar legislation was introduced by Ms. Chang and others last session but saw no movement (See Gongwer Michigan Report, October 11, 2021).

Ms. Chang's comments on further gun legislation came during an interview with Gongwer News Service discussing the committee's work this session.

While the committee has already taken up multiple significant policy items in the early months of session, a busy pace will continue, she said.

A total of 65 bills have been referred to the panel so far this session, all but one of them being Senate bills. More than 24 percent of the 267 Senate bills introduced so far this session have been referred to Ms. Chang's committee.

"It's a lot," Ms. Chang said. "We've got a lot of bipartisan criminal justice-related bills that didn't get across the finish line."

Ms. Chang said she was proud that what is now PA 6 of 2023 was the first bill to be heard in her committee, that being legislation adding sexual orientation and gender identity or expression as protected categories under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

Several bipartisan bill packages are expected to come forward this spring, she said.

One is a package of bills that would seek to prevent sexual assault under the guise of medical treatment and provide age-appropriate informational materials on sexual assault and harassment to students (See Gongwer Michigan Report, February 21, 2023). The package saw some movement last session but did not make it to the governor's desk.

Ms. Chang said there will also be hearings planned on legislation dealing with life without parole for juveniles, elder abuse and exploitation, child marriage and police accountability. A major policing bill package was introduced last session and was subject to several hearings but also did not see movement.

"There's a lot of stuff that should get a lot of support," Ms. Chang said.

She said with the new Democratic majority these policies and others provide numerous opportunities to take past legislative items and, in some cases, build on them further prior to passage.

One new item that will be introduced this session, she said, would be "second chance" legislation, which would create a process in which a judge would be able to take another look at an incarcerated person's case and their record while in the correctional system to see if the person might be able to be resentenced.

While it may not result in many incarcerated individuals seeing reductions in sentencing, Ms. Chang said "times have changed" when it comes to the criminal justice system, and it could be a way to reduce the prison population.

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