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2 MI Supreme Court justices says Legislature should revisit felony firearm laws

Handgun barrels on the assembly line of Hi-Point Firearms in Mansfield, Ohio.
Gus Chan
The Plain Dealer /Landov
Handgun barrels on the assembly line of Hi-Point Firearms in Mansfield, Ohio.

UPDATED ON 7/27/23 at 4:09 pm

The Michigan Supreme Court has upheld two convictions of a man violated two separate but similar state firearm laws.

But two justices suggested it may be time to look at some changes.

The defendant’s argued his convictions of violating the state’s felony firearm law and being a felon in possession of a firearm amounted to being charged twice for the same crime. That, he said, violates the double jeopardy clause of the US and Michigan constitutions.

The court heard arguments in April, but issued an unusual order Friday changing track and, instead, declining to make a ruling.

The order was unsigned, but Justices Elizabeth Welch and Kyra Harris Bolden issued a separate opinion concurring with the result as a matter of law. But they also asked the Legislature “to reconsider the current draconian status quo of allowing dual convictions for the single act of possessing a firearm.”            

The concurrence said the law is not only unjust, but unnecessary.

“Because I believe the Legislature clearly intended for multiple punishments to be imposed when a person with a felony possesses a firearm, I agree that denying leave in this matter is appropriate,” wrote Welch, author of the concurrence. “…. While the 1976 felony-firearm statute was built upon the understandable goal of decreasing the chance of a crime escalating into fatal violence by punishing use of a firearm when committing another crime, such a deterrent effect is not served where the underlying felony and the felony-firearm conviction arise from the identical action. The possession of a firearm is baked into the felon-in-possession conviction itself. In other words, charging a defendant under the felony-firearm statute because they violated the felon-in-possession statute does not deter the felon from unlawfully possessing the firearm under the felon-in-possession statute. The charges arise out of the identical transaction so one cannot deter the other.”
Bolden, who also signed, is a former legislator who served in the state House from 2019 through 2022.  

This story was updated to make it more clear that Welch wrote the concurrence and Bolden was a signatory.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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