New Michigan laws make storing firearms safely more important than ever

Firearm owners, parents of kids and teens, and loved ones of anyone at higher suicide risk should take immediate action to prevent injury and death

2:53 PM

Author | Kara Gavin

gun with lock on it with key there gun is in black and background yellow and lock is white
Jacob Dwyer/Michigan Medicine

Updated February 13, 2024

Several new laws just took effect in Michigan that aim to reduce the toll of firearm injuries and deaths across the state, by requiring guns to be stored securely in any location where young people might be present, allowing firearms to be removed temporarily from the homes of people considered to be at high risk, and more. 

Now, firearm owners whose weapons end up in the hands of a young person who shoots themselves or someone else could face prison time or major fines. The firearm owner could face charges and a fine even if the gun is never fired, but gets into the hands of a young person who shows it to someone.

Also new: police officers, health care professionals, mental health professionals, family members, roommates, current and former partners, and others who are concerned that someone may harm themselves or others can seek a court order to remove their firearms temporarily. This is called an extreme risk protection order, and is sometimes referred to as a "red flag" law.

There are also new laws taking effect that add background check requirements for purchasing or inheriting a rifle or long gun, and that prohibit people convicted of certain domestice violence offenses from possessing a firearm. 

Two years ago, University of Michigan researchers showed for that for first time, firearms had become the leading cause of death among young people age 1 to 19 in the United States.

Meanwhile, national data show that suicide rates have spiked to near-record highs. About half of all suicide deaths involve a firearm, and suicides account for half of all firearm-related deaths in the U.S.

SEE ALSO: Turning a psychiatric crisis into a chance to prevent firearm injury (michiganmedicine.org)

All of this makes it more important than ever for Michiganders who own firearms to take steps to store them safely, either with gun locks or in locked storage with ammunition stored separately, say experts from the University of Michigan. 

Gun locks are available for free from most law enforcement agencies, and for a low cost from retailers. Locked storage boxes can be inexpensive. The new laws also eliminate Michigan sales taxes on all secure storage devices purchased by Michiganders.

“Even if you don’t live with a child or teen, or a person with a high risk of suicide, simple storage changes can prevent tragedy,” said Patrick Carter, M.D., co-director of the U-M Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention and an emergency physician at Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center.

Michigan Medicine in 2022 signed on to the Hospitals United campaign, which promotes safe storage and encourages parents to ask about firearm storage in homes where their children are going to play.

Safe storage success

The Psychiatric Emergency Services team at Michigan Medicine has given away more than 500 free gun locks, through a program for patients who seek emergency mental health care at U-M. The team also asks nearly every patient and family they see about firearm ownership and offers information on safe storage.

Said John Kettley, L.M.S.W., the chief social worker for the Department of Psychiatry’s emergency team, "We hope that other mental health, emergency and primary care providers will consider adding detailed screening and education for their patients, no matter what their diagnosis."

Even if you don’t live with a child or teen, or a person with a high risk of suicide, simple storage changes can prevent tragedy."

- Patrick Carter, M.D.

Victor Hong, M.D., who directs the emergency psychiatry service, said “Our efforts to conduct a more thorough assessment of firearm safety for our patients are bearing fruit. We are having more active discussions and coaching sessions with families about the risks of having unsecured firearms and what some options are for safe storage. These discussions are approached from a non-judgmental stance to facilitate an open conversation, and in an effort to facilitate a change in behavior.”

Free firearm safety help available from U-M and others

To help the public and health care providers take action to reduce firearm injury risks of all kinds, visit and use the following resources:

Accelerating firearm injury research

With the establishment of the U-M firearm institute in 2022, U-M has become a national leader in academic firearm research that seeks to reduce injury and death and inform policymakers while respecting individual rights.

For instance, a team of U-M researchers has helped Upper Peninsula families with teens increase safe-storage practices through tailored education. Other U-M research has shown that firearm purchases by families with teens grew during the pandemic.

SEE ALSO: Michigan Medicine joins national campaign to address firearms as leading cause of death in kids | Michigan Medicine

While the new Michigan laws focus on safe storage of firearms around young people, one-third of all firearm deaths in the U.S. are among people over 50, with the vast majority of those deaths being suicides.

Men over age 75 have the highest rate of suicide of any age group, though the new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that rates have risen in many age groups and among both men and women.

Carter’s research has shown that 24% of firearm owners over age 50, and 20% of those who have children living with them or visiting often, store at least one of their firearms loaded and unlocked. He has also studied older adults’ attitudes toward firearm injury prevention policies.

As Michigan policymakers consider other measures to reduce the toll of firearm injury, research by U-M teams is informing their work.

Anyone interested in receiving updates about firearm injury prevention research at U-M can join the institute's email list.


More Articles About: Firearms Preventative health and wellness Injury Prevention Health Care Delivery, Policy and Economics Community Health Future Think Education
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