Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell is among eight Michigan mayors who, with law enforcement leaders, have publicly expressed their opposition to Michigan House Bill 5225, a bill that would eliminate background checks for private-party handgun sales, which comprise nearly half of all handgun sales in Michigan.
“This bill would make it easier for convicted criminals and persons with severe mental illness to obtain deadly weapons, and make it more difficult for our police officers to protect themselves and our communities,” the mayors wrote in a letter to State Senate leaders and Governor Rick Snyder.
According to a press release issued by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national coalition, the bill has already passed the state House of Representatives, and it cleared a Senate committee vote earlier this month. A full Senate vote is expected as early as next week.
The mayors who signed, all members of the coalition, collectively represent more than one million Michigan residents. In addition to Driskell, they include Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje; Dearborn Mayor John B. O’Reilly, Jr.; Detroit Mayor Dave Bing; Flint Mayor Dayne Walling; Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski; Southfield Mayor Brenda L. Lawrence; and Ypsilanti Mayor Paul T. Schreiber.
HB 5225 is also strongly opposed by the Michigan State Police, the Michigan Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention and Treatment Board, and the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence, the release indicated.
Under current state law, a resident must pass a background check and basic firearms training exam to obtain a permit to purchase a handgun, the release indicated. This system blocks gun sales to convicted felons, domestic abusers, the severely mentally ill and others who are barred by law from purchasing guns.
Under HB 5225, licensed firearms dealers would continue to conduct background checks, as required by federal law, but private sellers at gun shows and those who sell on websites would not be bound by this requirement. The release cited a statistic from the State Police that private sales account for 48 percent of all gun transactions in Michigan.
Michigan State Police Director Colonel Kriste Kibbey Etue said, “This bill hampers law enforcement and endangers public safety because it eliminates the requirement of having a criminal background check for the tens of thousands of private handgun sales that occur each year."
She added that the legislation "also eliminates the state’s pistol registry, which is a critical crime solving tool that was utilized more than 21,000 times by law enforcement last year.”
Kathy Hagenian, Executive Policy Director for the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, said the legislation would remove "a vital safeguard for helping to keep handguns out of the hands of those who have perpetrated domestic violence." She said removing the regulation "could be the difference between life and death for domestic violence victims. Our elected leaders need to stand up to protect victims rather than taking a step backwards and jeopardizing their safety.”
The release also cited a survey by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, which showed 74 percent of members of the National Rifle Association agree that all gun sales should be subject to a background check.
“As Police Chief, my most important job is to keep the streets safe and protect our police,” said Ypsilanti Police Chief Amy Walker. “This bill makes that job much tougher by opening up a dangerous loophole that would give criminals, the dangerously mentally ill and domestic abusers easy access to handguns. Eliminating background checks for private handgun sales is counterproductive to our goal of eliminating gun violence.”