January 21, 2022
Democrats in the Michigan State Senate recently introduced a bill, the passage of which would affect firearm sellers, retail purchasers, and existing firearm owners in Michigan.
SB550 would require retail dealers to provide a written warning to firearm purchasers and post conspicuous warnings at the counter, informing customers of their legal obligation to safely store firearms. A seller who violates this provision would be guilty of a misdemeanor. This bill also requires anyone who stores or leaves a firearm on premises under his or her control to either: (1) keep the firearm in a securely locked box or container; (2) in a location that a reasonable person would believe is secure; or (3) securely lock the firearm with a locking device; if the person knows, or reasonably should know, that the firearm is accessible to a minor. Failure to store a firearm in the above manner is a misdemeanor if a minor obtains access to the firearm. Further, if a firearm that is not secured in the above manner is used by a minor who has access to it to kill or injure someone (including the minor), the owner of the firearm would be guilty of a felony.
Of import, if SB550 were to be enacted, not only could it impose criminal penalties if a licensed firearms dealer fails to provide the required legal warnings, but it could also potentially result in civil liability. A case seeking damages or other relief arising from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm by a minor that resulted in death or personal injuries would normally be barred by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (“PLCAA”). If the required warnings were not provided in connection with the sale of the firearm used by the minor, however, plaintiffs would likely argue that the predicate exception to PLCAA is satisfied. The argument would be that the dealer knowingly violated a statute applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms by failing to provide the required warning, and that such violation was a proximate cause of plaintiff’s damages.
Thus, it will be important for Michigan based firearm dealers to monitor SB550 and, if it is enacted, adopt new policies to ensure that the warning is provided with all firearms sold, and maintain records demonstrating that the warning was provided in connection with each specific firearm sold. SB550 has been referred to the Committee on Government Operations, but the Republican led Senate has not yet scheduled a committee hearing on it.
Renzulli Law Firm, LLP will continue to monitor firearm related legislation throughout the country. If you have any questions concerning firearms related legislation, or how internal policies and procedures can keep your business in compliance, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.