Editor’s Note: The following article was written by Scott McMahan and first published by the Lapeer County Tribune on Nov. 28, 2023

LANSING – Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a slate of new gun control bills into law on November 20 that confiscate firearms and ammunition from people in Michigan who have been convicted of both violent and non-violent misdemeanors under new legal definitions of “domestic violence misdemeanors” established in the new laws.

These bills, passed by the democrat-controlled state house and senate, broadly expand the category of misdemeanors considered to be “domestic violence” to include many infractions that are clearly not violent, allow law enforcement to confiscate all firearms from anyone convicted of these misdemeanors, and prohibit anyone convicted of these misdemeanors from buying or owning firearms or ammunition for 8 years.

One of the bills, Senate Bill 528 Sec. 115 (1), clearly defines the act of stepping foot into your current or ex-partner’s vacant ice shanty without her permission as a domestic violence misdemeanor – as long as the shanty is worth $100 or more.

Another section (Sec. 540E (1)) says if you annoy or “disturb the peace and quiet of another person” who is your current or former domestic partner using a telecommunications service or device, you are guilty of a domestic violence misdemeanor.

The consequence of having a domestic violence misdemeanor on your record is the forced confiscation of all your firearms and ammunition. You will, also, be unable to purchase or own firearms or ammunition in Michigan for eight years.

Whitmer insists the new laws are about protecting women. “Keeping Michiganders – especially young women – safe and healthy is a top priority, and these bills will take long overdue steps to protect individuals from abuse,” she said in a press release from her office.

A careful reading of the bills proves these bills are not designed for public protection as much as to make it easier for more people to be convicted of misdemeanors for which the government has the power to confiscate weapons by force.

“It goes well beyond domestic violence and [adds] about 100 misdemeanors to the list,” said Rep. Phil Green (R-Millington) in a statement to the Tribune. “This is a complete gun grab that advances the left’s assault on our constitutional rights.”

If the motive behind the law is safety and not gun confiscation, it is curious as to why democrats refused to support republican-sponsored bills in the house and senate aimed not at gun owners, but at criminals and proven specific school safety measures.

“The democrats voted down our plan to give prosecutors money to reduce their caseloads and to give schools money for cameras, electronic lock systems, and door blocks,” Senator Kevin Daley (R-Lapeer) said in a statement to the Tribune.

Daley went on to say, “If democrats were serious about reducing gun violence, they would insist that soft-on-crime prosecutors enforce the gun laws we already have, and they’d give schools the resources they need to make buildings safe from criminals.”

The three bills Whitmer signed last week are also mostly absent of any protection for the accused. Daley added, “These ‘red flag’ bills don’t even include guaranteed right to legal counsel!”

In a press release, Michigan State Police Director, Col. James F. Grady II, voiced strong support for the new laws by saying, “These bills give our troopers a valuable tool in the fight to keep survivors of domestic violence safe.”

One might wonder whether Col. Grady, the few republicans who voted in favor of the bills, or the rest of the media in the country have actually read the bills. The Tribune has read these bills, and here’s what they say:

Senate Bill 528 redefines dozens of misdemeanors to be included into a new, expanded “domestic violence” class of misdemeanors. Senate Bill 528 includes many non-violent offenses that do not cause any physical harm to anyone.

House Bill 4945 updates the sentencing guidelines to prohibit those convicted of domestic violence as redefined in SB 528 from buying or owning any firearm or ammunition for eight years.

Senate Bill 471 prohibits the possession or use of firearms and ammunition by persons convicted of a misdemeanor involving domestic violence. This bill also allows law enforcement to confiscate all guns and ammunition owned by these individuals and applies to people who have been convicted of any domestic violence misdemeanor as defined in Senate Bill 528.

According to SB 528, all of the following are considered “domestic violence” if done against someone with whom the defendant is currently or has been in a domestic relationship (among other crimes):

  • Entering any vacant and unlocked structure belonging to the domestic partner without permission.
  • Annoying or “disturb[ing] the peace and quiet of another person” through a telecommunications service or device.
  • Damaging personal property, even if the damage is less than $200.
  • Engaging in what the victim believes to be harassing behavior that the victim claims caused “emotional distress.”
  • Using “vulgar, indecent, obscene, or offensive language… through the use of a telecommunications device.”
  • Shutting off the other’s telecommunications service.

Sec. 115 (1) says “any individual who breaks and enters or enters without breaking, any dwelling, house, tent… barn… boat… railroad car… out-building… [or] ice shanty with a value of $100.00 or more… whether occupied or unoccupied, without first obtaining permission to enter from the person having immediate control thereof, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

So, if a person enters any structure exceeding $100 in value owned by his or her current or former partner without permission, he or she is guilty of a domestic violence misdemeanor.

Sec 377a says that someone who “willfully and maliciously destroys or injures the personal property of another person,” when the owner of that personal property is a current or former domestic partner, is guilty of a domestic violence misdemeanor.

This applies even if the damage is less than $200. Sec 377a  (1)(3) says, “If the amount of the destruction or injury is less than $200, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor…”

Sec 411h defines a class of misdemeanors where a judge can convict an individual of stalking or harassment if there is a “pattern of conduct composed of a series of 2 or more separate noncontinuous acts (Sec. 411h. (a)) that causes “emotional distress,” which Sec. 411h. (c) defines as, “significant mental suffering or distress that may, but does not necessarily, require medical or other professional treatment or counseling.”

The most vague and open-to-a-spectrum-of-legal-interpretation is Sec. 540E (1), which states, “A person who maliciously uses any service provided by a telecommunications service provider with intent to terrorize, frighten, intimidate, threaten, harass, molest, or annoy another person, or to disturb the peace and quiet of another person by doing any of the following is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

The Tribune has researched dictionary definitions of domestic violence and has yet to encounter being annoying or disturbing the peace and quiet of another person as aspects of domestic violence.  However, in Michigan today, if you do it over a telecommunications device, you are guilty of a domestic violence misdemeanor.

The list of actions that qualify as misdemeanor malicious use of telecommunications service includes shutting off or not paying for a domestic partner’s telecommunications service (Sec. 540e (c)), “using vulgar, indecent, obscene, or offensive language… through the use of a telecommunications device (d),” and repeatedly calling and hanging up (e).

All of these non-violent misdemeanors are now considered, along with legitimately violent acts, to be “domestic violence” in the State of Michigan and anyone convicted of them could have their firearms confiscated from them by force and will be unable to purchase or own any firearm or ammunition for 8 years after their conviction.

The new bills do not apply retroactively, and only affect those who will be convicted under the new laws.

Whitmer is likely not close to being done with what many believe are “attacks” against Michiganders’ Second Amendment rights. She has yet to sign SB 83-86, which passed the House and Senate prior to their early adjournment this year and establish a new type of court order, called “Extreme Protection Order (EPO).”

If Whitmer signs these bills into law, judges will be able to use EPOs to immediately confiscate firearms from someone determined to be a threat to themselves or others without trial and with limited opportunity for defense. Fees for service of documents related to these orders are prohibited, making it easy and free for anyone to petition for an Extreme Protection Order.

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