Michigan safe gun storage law's first time used comes in Flint 2-year-old's shooting

Just one week after a new Safe Storage Firearms Law went into effect, it is being applied after the accidental shooting of a 2-year-old in Flint. 

The gun owner, Michael Tolbert of Flint, has been charged with multiple counts in the child's shooting. It includes a violation of the storage law, a felony, in which the weapon was left unsecured with a child present, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said Tuesday.

The girl's accidental shooting happened on Valentine's Day, when she shot herself in the head inside a bedroom at the home. Tolbert, 44, transported her to Hurley Medical Center himself and was later arrested by Flint police. 

The victim, who shot herself through her right eye, remains in critical condition as of Tuesday.

"Hurley medical staff says that the bullet entered the right eye of the little girl and exited through the rear of her skull.," Leyton said. "Doctors have said she will lose her right eye at best - and remains in critical condition." 

Inside the home police found two guns on the bed, and a child-sized chair next to it. Both a revolver - the gun that was fired, and a semiautomatic pistol, were both loaded on the bed. Officers executing a search warrant also found a bullet hole in the ceiling as well as blood and brain matter in the bedroom.

"This is the first case in Michigan where the individual has been charged with violating firearm safe storage law. The law went into effect one week ago today. This incident occurred the very next day," Leyton said.

Leyton said that although among the charges is child abuse, is harder to prove in court, as opposed to charges of violating the safe storage law which he called "more straightforward."

Penalties can vary due to the severity of the case, up to 15 years in prison if the gun accident results in death.

"Thanks to this law, this is what we have to prove as to Mr. Tolbert's conduct - that he did store or leave a firearm unintended on premises under his control, when he knew that a minor was likely to be on the premises and did fail to store the firearm in a locked box or container," he said. "And or keep the firearms unloaded and stored with a locking device that is properly engaged to render the firearm inoperable by any individual other than the owner or an authorized user. And that as a result, a minor obtained the firearm, discharged it, and inflicted serious impairment of a body function upon the minor."

Tolbert is facing a host of other charges including first-degree child abuse, felony up to life in prison, felony firearm, felon in possession of a firearm, a felon in possession of ammunition, and lying to a police officer about a violent crime investigation.

Related: New Michigan gun laws go into effect Feb. 13: Safe storage, 'red flag', and expanded background checks rules

Michigan State Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet who helped author the law, spoke about the significance of the case.

"I did not ever dream that within days of the law going into effect that we would need it - but here we are," she said. "I am hoping that with these prosecutions and as we raise awareness of safe storage that we will need to use this less and less."

McDonald-Rivet, a Democrat, is a mother of six.

"Anytime a child is harmed it is a tragedy," she said. "Honestly I fear the day we don't become devastated and become numb to (an incident like this). The fact that Prosecutor Leyton is using it within days of the law going into effect, shows you we have a real problem."

The law as written "requires individuals to keep unattended weapons unloaded and locked with a locking device or stored in a locked box or container if it is reasonably known that a minor is likely to be present on the premises," according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services."

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton