Safe Storage: Frequently Asked Questions
Michigan's new safe storage law requires that all firearms in homes with children be securely stored. Read on to find out the details.
Firearms have become the leading cause of death for children in the US. Safe storage can make a big difference and save children's lives.
What does the safe storage law require?
Starting February 13, 2024, every gun owner in Michigan has a new responsibility. If there are children in your premises (generally the home), your firearms must be safely stored.
Safe storage can either mean secured using a safety device, or on your person and under your control.
This law applies even if the children are visiting your home, or you reasonably should have known that children would visit the home.
The law also applies if you’re carrying a firearm and go to someplace else where there are children. You can either keep your firearm on you, under your control, or you can leave it securely stored in your car. The car must then be locked.
How Should I Secure my Firearms?
End Gun Violence Michigan does not endorse any particular product or brand of safety equipment. In general:
The simplest way to secure a firearm is with a cable gun lock. They thread through the breach, and prevent the gun from loading and/or chambering a round. Cable gun locks can be purchased for as little as $6. Cable locks are also available for free from most local law enforcement agencies or the Veterans Administration. Cable locks do not prevent theft.
Gun safes are generally the most secure option, as they are more effective at preventing theft. Simple hand gun safes are available for less than $40, and simple rifle safes are available for less than $200.
Trigger locks comply with the law, but are not recommended. This is because some trigger locks allow a weapon to be loaded and a round to be chambered while the lock is in use. If this happens, a firearm may accidentally discharge while removing the trigger lock.
Whatever method you use, be sure to follow a few extra steps for safety.
1) It is a best practice, though not a requirement of the law, to keep weapons unloaded when not in use and to store ammunition separately.
2) If you use a safety device with keys, keep the keys on you. Children may come across keys even if they are hidden.
3) If you use a combination lock, keep the combination private, for example in a password protected computer file. Do not write it down where children could find it.
4) Locks and safes that use biometric technology, such as a fingerprint, are generally the most secure.
5) It is a good idea to practice using your safety device in a controlled setting.
How Is the Law Enforced and What Are the Penalties ?
It's important to remember that law enforcement will not perform inspections for compliance. All gun owners are informed of the law at the time of purchase, and penalties only apply if a child actually accesses an unsecured firearm.
If a child gains access to an unsecured firearm, the penalties escalate according to the harm caused.
Misdemeanor: If a child accesses an unsecured firearm and brings it to a public place, or "Possesses or exhibits the firearm in the presence of another person in a careless, reckless, or threatening manner," then the gun owner can be convicted of a misdemeanor. In this case, no one has been harmed by the firearm.
Penalty: Up to 93 days in jail, up to a $500 fine, or both.
Felony 1*: If a child gains access to an unsecured firearm and as a result "inflicts injury" on themselves or others, the gun owner may be convicted of a felony.
Penalty: Up to 5 years in prison, up to $5,000 fine, or both.
Felony 2: If a child gains access to an unsecured firearm and as a result, "inflicts serious impairment of a body function," upon themselves or others, the gun owner may be convicted of a felony.
Penalty: Up to 10 years in prison, up to a $7,500 fine, or both.
Felony 3: If a child gains access to an unsecured firearm and as a result, " inflicts death" upon themselves or others, the gun owner may be convicted of a felony.
Penalty: Up to 15 years in prison, up to a $10,000 fine, or both.
*Note that "Felony 1," "Felony 2," and "Felony 3," are shorthand used here for explanatory purposes and are not legal definitions.
Why Is Safe Storage Important?
Sadly, guns have become the leading cause of death for children in the United States. Safe storage is a practical solution that can dramatically reduce youth firearm injuries and deaths, including suicides.
For example, when Florida introduced a strict safe storage law, youth firearm deaths went down 51%.
Safe storage can also prevent young people who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts from accessing a firearm. Homes that safely store their firearms have a 78% percent lower risk of self-inflicted firearm injuries and an 85 percent lower risk of unintentional firearm injuries among children and teens, compared to those that locked neither. Sadly, guns are the deadliest method used in suicide, resulting in death in 85% of attempts. For comparison, suicide by drug overdose is lethal 3% of the time.
By keeping firearms safely stored, we can also reduce gun theft. Approximately 200,000 guns are stolen every year, many of which are later used in crimes.
Safe storage can also prevent young people from accessing firearms to use in crimes or school shootings.