By Ben Solis
Posted: August 21, 2022 8:48 PM
A four-bill, bipartisan package introduced Wednesday would create tax incentives for secure weapons storage and training while also allowing for proof of secured storage to be used as a complete defense in civil and criminal trials where a gun owner's weapon was used to commit a crime by someone else.
The package includes HB 6350, HB 6351, HB 6352 and HB 6353, introduced by Rep. Mark Tisdel (R-Rochester Hills), Rep. Jim Ellison (D-Royal Oak), Rep. Tim Sneller (D-Burton) and Rep. Mike Harris (R-Clarkston), respectively.
Mr. Tisdel's bill would allow secure storage of a legally obtained and owned firearm to serve as a complete defense in a criminal case against a gun's owner or a person legally authorized to use the gun by the owner if the charges result because a different person used the weapon to commit a crime (editor's note: This story was changed to correctly describe how the legal defense would work under the bill).
It also lays out what his office called in a news release a clear protocol for "safe, secure storage to protect against access or use by a person other than the owner or legal authorized user."
In HB 6351, Mr. Ellison aims to similarly allow a gun owner to raise proof of secured or safe storage as an affirmative defense in a civil trial if the same situation were to arise.
Mr. Sneller's bill would also incentivize safe storage in the home by providing a tax credit of up to $350 per year for the purchase of safety equipment, such as safes, lock boxes and trigger locks.
The last in the package, Mr. Harris's HB 6353 would offer the same tax credit for training expenses, eligible to people who have completed a certified course with at least four hours of instruction covering safe storage, use, and handling; ammunition knowledge; fundamentals of firearm shooting; laws related to firearm use; and avoiding criminal attack and controlling a violent situation.
In a statement circulated by his office, Mr. Tisdel said that safe storage was important "not only to secure firearms against those who would take and use them for evil, but also to prevent tragic accidents involving children."
"Through liability protections and tax savings, our bipartisan plan will encourage smart, safe habits by responsible gun owners," he said. "The plan clearly lays out best practices for storing weapons securely, spreading a legal safety net for people who follow them. Tax credits will help people pay for storage equipment and training about proper gun storage and handling."
On the bipartisan nature of the bills, Mr. Tisdel said "finding common ground to prevent death and injury from abused and misused weapons must be a priority. These bipartisan policy proposals will help initiate a serious discussion about how to make Michigan safer."
In a separate interview with Gongwer News Service on Wednesday, Mr. Tisdel was asked if he thought the push for secured storage, the criminal and civil defense aspects or the incentives went against the common wisdom of Michigan Republicans who have in the past opted for fewer gun restrictions.
Mr. Tisdel believed the package, and more specifically his bill, included policy points that his caucus could get behind. He crafted it following the Oxford High School shooting in November 2021 and shortly after Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald announced charges against the shooter's parents.
In that case, the parents allegedly did not have the weapon used in the crime securely stored, and the prosecution is attempting to show that the gun was also purchased directly for their son to use.
"I figured this was an opportunity to show responsible gun owners how they can avoid similar consequences. … As Republicans, we talk about Second Amendment rights and for a long time, we've always talked about rights and responsibilities. That's just the flip side of the coin. The other side of the coin of rights is responsibility. So, putting the two together and creating an opportunity for responsible gun owners to avoid concerns about criminal liability or civil liability. If another criminal action has resulted in the unauthorized acquisition of their weapon, then we've codified that, put the directives in the law and provided a benefit for following them."
As to whether the bill has traction or support from leadership, Mr. Tisdel said he's spoken with the office of Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell). While it may be difficult to push the bill to the floor from committee this term, the representative said it wasn't impossible. He also noted that Mr. Wentworth convened a gun safety workgroup in the wake of the Oxford shooting and that the group recently came out with recommendations.
Out of respect for Mr. Wentworth and the workgroup, Mr. Tisdel held off on introducing his bill but said now was the time to act on the package. He also said he was fortunate to have Mr. Harris's input with his bill, as he was the certified trainer for the Waterford Police Department for nearly two decades. He also said he appreciated the backing of Mr. Ellison and Mr. Sneller across the aisle – who have both said the bill was something they could live with or get behind.