The Michigan Department of Health & Human Services, or MDHHS, announced a new firearm safety law that will go into effect in Michigan on Feb. 13. The law, Public Act 17 of 2023, requires safe storage of firearms to prevent access to minors.
According to the MDHHS, the act requires Michigan residents to "keep unattended weapons unloaded and locked with a locking device or stored in a locked box or container if it is reasonably known that a minor is likely to be present on the premises."
In 2020, firearms were the leading cause of death for children in the United States, according to the MDHHS.
"This is a package of legislation that is a really great first step towards protecting Michigan families and children and individuals who live in the state from gun violence," Chief medical executive for the state of Michigan Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian said. "These are the legislation designed to take firearms out of the hands of individuals to pose risks to themselves or others."
Dr. Bagdasarian said gun violence is often talked about as a political issue and not a health issue. She said since gun violence is the leading cause of death, it needs to be talked about more as a public health issue.
"Firearm violence is preventable and a leading cause of death in our young people," said Dr. Bagdasarian. "In Michigan, and across the United States, childhood deaths from firearms now exceed deaths from pediatric cancers and drownings. We have had major success over the past decades in reducing pediatric deaths from motor vehicle accidents, and we need to harness the same public health approach – including education and community outreach – to help keep Michigan children and families safe from firearm violence."
If a firearm is not stored properly and a minor obtains the weapon, the individual is guilty of a crime through Public Act 16 of 2023 if the minor presents it in a threatening way, inflicts injury or causes death on themselves or another person. The crime is punishable by ranging from 93 days to 15 years, $500-$10,000, or both, depending on what occurred.
Dr. Bagdasarian said that this bill package is "designed to prevent people from being injured or dying from firearms."
"We know that having access to a firearm in the home can triple someone's risk of dying by suicide. We know that the majority of unintentional firearm deaths in children occur when they are unsecured in the home, when they are left loaded and unlocked and in places like nightstands and under mattresses and on the top shelf or closet," she said. "So all of these laws as a package are really designed to prevent firearm injuries and deaths from occurring."
Approximately 67% of firearm injuries for children occur when the firearm is being played with or shown to others. 76% of these cases occurred when the firearm was kept unlocked, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
These gun safety laws additionally protect families by "closing loopholes in the law and expanding universal background checks to all firearms," according to the MDHHS.
For more information visit the MDHHS firearm safety website.
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