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Michigan officials discuss ghost guns, other policies during gun violence prevention conference

Michigan State Police

Some Michigan officials are looking at what they called "ghost guns" as a possible target for new legislation in the coming months.

Ghost guns can be 3D printed or made from kit parts authorities say are often purchased without a background check or significant oversight. They can be difficult to impossible to track, because they lack serial numbers.

State Representative Kelly Breen (D-Novi) said they’ve been increasingly pervasive in crimes.

“These go right to the core of what even we hear folks who are pro 2nd Amendment talk about. You really want to target the bad people with the guns,” Breen said Tuesday, during a summit hosted by the group, End Gun Violence Michigan.

Breen said lawmakers are currently working on legislation to address the spread of ghost guns.

But any potential policies would likely need Republican support, at least in the near future, due to Democrats being at a temporary even split with Republicans in the House.

It’s unclear if that buy-in is there.

Representative Phil Green (R-Millington) chairs the House Second Amendment Caucus. He said there needs to be stricter enforcement of existing gun laws, rather than new ones.

“I think we are splitting hairs and going after such a small smidgeon of, we’ll call them guns. Whereas we are not dealing with the real problem, which is people committing crimes,” Green said.

Green took a position commonly shared by gun-rights advocates during the debate over new gun laws after last year’s mass shooting at Michigan State University.

He pointed out prosecutors have the chance to seek charges that would incarcerate individuals for lengthier sentences if a crime involves a firearm. But prosecutors don’t always choose that path.

Some have said it’s not realistic given the number of ways someone can commit a firearm possession-related offense and the common nature of certain crimes.

But Green said those laws exist for a reason.

“If we’re not going to prosecute people for committing a violent crime, is there any confidence that we’re going to prosecute somebody for having a ghost gun?” Green said.

Throughout the policy forum, various state officials and policymakers celebrated new gun laws passed last year and weighed in on what they thought would be the next steps.

Attorney General Dana Nessel praised the state’s safe storage and extreme risk protection order laws. But she said the state could go further in protecting domestic violence survivors by reinstating a 24-hour period before anyone arrested on suspicion of domestic violence could be released.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel spoke at the Griffin Forum: Shaping LGBTQ+ Policies in Michigan on the campus of Central Michigan University on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023.
Rick Brewer
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel spoke at the Griffin Forum: Shaping LGBTQ+ Policies in Michigan on the campus of Central Michigan University on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023.

“This time is so critical to allow the victim, and quite frankly the defendant, to have time, either cooling off time or for the victim time to plan,” Nessel said.

Nessel said she’s working with the Legislature on that policy.

Colin Jackson is a reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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