Background checks by the state police for guns purchased in Michigan would include assault rifles and other long guns, not just pistols, under a package of bills introduced in the state Senate.
The legislation will face a rough road in the Republican-controlled Legislature, but if passed it would make Michigan the 13th state to establish background checks that are mandated for all rifles from any seller.
“This is just sensible legislation so that guns don’t get into the hands of people who should not have them,” said Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Huntington Woods), one of six Democratic senators who announced the bill on Wednesday in Lansing.
According to the senators, among the 12 states with background checks for all firearm sales, six rank among the 10 states with the least gun violence. Michigan ranked 27th, with a rate of 12.2 gun deaths per 100,000 people, based on 2016 figures.
The legislation would also upgrade the criminal penalties for forging information on a firearm license application, providing a false statement on a firearm sales record, or knowingly selling a firearm without performing a background check.
Currently, the purchase of a rifle from a federally licensed dealer requires a federal background check through the FBI. That requirement does not apply to private sellers or gun show purchases. Only handguns are subject to a Michigan State Police background check of the buyer.
Similar legislation will be introduced in the state House. Numerous interest groups will be backing the bill if and when it receives a hearing in a Senate committee.
“Firearm injuries are currently the second leading cause of death in children and teens. Requiring universal background checks for firearms purchases gets us closer to the goal of preventing these tragic deaths,” said Dr. Sharon Swindell, a University of Michigan physician and president of the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.