Proposed Michigan bill could take guns from mentally ill

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Michigan is getting in on the gun debate. This bill would make it easier to take guns away from potentially dangerous people.

It was first proposed nearly a year ago, but never got any traction. That however could be changing.

"We know in certain states where these laws have been implemented it saved lives," said Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Oak Park).

Wittenberg spoke to FOX 2 about his extreme risk protection bill. It would allow family members or police to lobby a judge to temporarily seize guns from someone who poses a threat to themselves or the public. It would also keep them from buying new weapons.

"They get due process, so it goes through a judge and the judge has to deem that there's enough evidence that this person is a threat to themselves or someone else," Wittenberg said. "You see what happened in Florida.

"In California, a few years ago at UC Santa Barbara, a similar instance happened and parents were worried about their son. They called police, they went to check on him and they said there is nothing we can do because he did not commit a crime. And then he went and shot up the school and shot himself."

Even so, there's mixed reactions from gun owners. 

"This system that they're proposing with regards to this extreme personal protection order, it can be abused," said Rick Ector of Rick's Firearm Academy. "And people who are being accused of not being safe with a firearm, they don't have any protections."

"No one wants to see a dangerous individual who is a legitimate threat to own a firearm," said James Makowski, of Michigan Gun Owners. "I think the concept is acceptable as long as we do an adequate job of safeguarding the rights of those that are accused." 

The Valentine's Day massacre at a Florida high school brought new life to the debate over who should have access to firearms. Here at home police encounters with armed people reported to be mentally ill has cost some officers their lives.  

Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad supports Wittenberg's bill.

"That fits right into our intervention model," he said. "We've had five or six interventions here in Dearborn. In all cases we've been involved with, they readily gave up their weapons."

But it has to be given a hearing first.  State Rep. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) chairs the committee in which the bill sits.

"There's also wanting a process server to process serve someone who may be mentally ill with a weapon, that may not be the best approach," Runestad said.  "So there's a number of issues we have to look at before I would make any commitments."

Runestad says right now there's no timeline on when he'll decide if this bill will get a hearing, but he is giving it priority over a number of other bills.