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Senate majority leader talks gun storage laws ahead of effective date

Michigan’s new gun storage laws take effect Tuesday.

That means anyone with children in the home will need to start locking up their firearms, or possibly face legal penalties.

Under the law, gun owners could face a $500 fine and a 93-day prison sentence if a child, in a public space, displays a gun that should have been locked up.

If failure to properly store a gun results in a death, the penalties could ramp up to a $10,000 fine and a 15-year prison sentence.

State Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) said gun violence constantly threatens Michigan’s children.

“It has been proven, time and time again, that laws requiring gun owners to safely secure their weapons save lives. This is a practical and commonsense step that will keep Michigan families, schools, and communities safer,” Brinks said during a press conference Monday in Grand Rapids.

Some opponents of the new laws have called them too reactionary since punishment would mainly come after an incident occurs, rather than before.

But Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom said he hopes it doesn’t get to the enforcement stage of the law.

“We had four kids walk into a public school with a handgun last year and the message was then, secure those guns. Secure those guns. Of course, we’re here now spreading the word as well. So, I think the message has gotten out there,” Winstrom said.

The safe storage policies, which also provide for tax breaks on gun safety devices, are just a few of several gun laws passed last year that are going into effect Tuesday.

Others require universal background checks, allow courts to keep guns from those deemed a threat to themselves or others, and aim to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.

Brinks said bills targeting ghost guns, often assembled from kits or 3-D printed parts and nearly impossible to trace, could be next.

"We have to take a look at what other legislation is already out there. I know several of my colleagues in the House and the Senate are taking a look at what might be next,” Brinks said.

Critics of that policy idea and other gun laws argue tougher enforcement of existing laws would be a better way of preventing gun violence.

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