By a wide margin, Michigan voters support the passage of a state “red flag” law that would allow a judge to order the confiscation of guns owned by someone who has demonstrated mental instability or has acted in a threatening manner.
A new poll by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA found that 70 percent of voters favor such a law, while just 20 percent are opposed and 10 percent are undecided.
Under a bill pending in the Legislature, a new type of court order called an, “extreme risk protection order,” could be issued by a judge if evidence is presented that a gun owner has engaged in dangerous behavior.
The legislation introduced in the state House would allow a family member, someone in a close relationship, a former spouse, a parent or a law enforcement official to petition a court asking that the defendant be banned from purchasing or possessing a firearm for a period of one year.
This would be similar to a personal protection order under current law. A judge can issue a PPO to protect someone who faces threats or appears to be in danger from a stalker or someone they know.
Red flag laws that allow extreme risk protection orders are in place in five states — Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon, Washington and California — but they have been proposed in 17 other states, in addition to Michigan.
Though the red flag approach is not well known among the general public, the poll question was asked of respondents after a detailed explanation of the bill, which is currently awaiting a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.
“Clearly, Michigan voters see this legislation as an important part of the solution to the problem of gun violence, and there is no partisan divide on the question,” said EPIC-MRA pollster Bernie Porn.
Some 78 percent of self-identified Democrats, 67 percent of independents and 64 percent of Republicans said they support the idea. By region, support ranged from a low of 63 percent in northern Michigan to 74 percent in the Saginaw Bay area, with 72 percent of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County residents also backing the measure.
Overall, 39 percent said they strongly support such a law, and 31 percent said they “somewhat support” the proposal. Twelve percent are strongly opposed and 8 percent indicated they are “somewhat” opposed.
The poll comes in the wake of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., where 17 students and faculty were gunned down. The alleged shooter, who owned 10 guns, had displayed numerous red flags in advance, including mental health problems, violent behavior and threatening posts on social media.
As in the five states with these laws, the Michigan legislation would allow the defendant in an extreme risk protection order case to appeal the court’s decision. After one year, the court could end the gun restrictions or extend them further.
Critics of these laws, including the National Rifle Association, say that they violate due process by failing to grant the defendant the opportunity to defend himself or herself against the evidence presented at a court hearing before the judge makes a decision.
The judge could issue an order only if there is “clear evidence” that a substantial risk exists toward the defendant, if suicidal tendencies are at issue, or to others.