Court strikes down pro-gun lawsuit against Michigan Legislature amid new gun reform

Groups denied motion in attempt to block recently passed bills

LANSING, MI - MARCH 17: The Michigan State Capital building is seen March 17, 2008 in Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images) (Bill Pugliano, 2008 Getty Images)

The Michigan Court of Claims on Wednesday struck down a lawsuit brought against the Michigan Legislature in connection with its recently passed gun reform legislation.

Pro-gun groups Michigan Open Carry and Great Lakes Gun Rights filed a lawsuit against the Michigan House and Senate earlier this month, claiming the Legislature refused to hear pro-gun testimony in hearings related to gun reform legislation. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed recently-passed bills into law on April 13, establishing universal background checks for all gun purchases and firearm storage requirements.

In the lawsuit, plaintiffs claim the state Legislature violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by allegedly denying the groups the chance to testify at hearings, in turn violating the Open Meetings Act. Plaintiffs argued that lawmakers’ actions were “as illegal and unconstitutional” as passing the so-called common sense gun safety bills. Most of those bills have been approved and signed by Gov. Whitmer.

The Michigan Court of Claims struck down the lawsuit on Wednesday, April 19, however, denying the plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order. Court of Claims Judge Thomas Cameron said that in their lawsuit, Michigan Open Carry and Great Lakes Gun Rights failed to:

  • Establish an immediate and irreparable injury.
  • Identify what defendants’ specific rules are and how they violated them under the Open Meetings Act.
  • Show that the balancing of harms and public interest weighed in favor of granting a temporary restraining order or order to show cause.

Following the court’s decision, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said that Michigan Open Carry did actually testify at two of the legislative meetings. Both plaintiffs were “able to submit testimony cards at all meetings and additionally had the opportunity to submit written testimony,” a statement from Nessel’s office reads.

Judge Cameron said that in the nearly two months in which the meetings at issue took place, the plaintiffs had “ample time” to file the lawsuit and request injunctive relief.

The lawsuit comes as the Democrat-led state Legislature takes focus on gun reform in an attempt to address ongoing gun violence, especially following two high-profile mass school shootings that recently happened in the state. Some Republicans have shown opposition to the reform, but the majority of Michigan voters -- both Democrats and Republicans -- actually support gun reform legislation overall.

Nearly 75% of voters said they support implementing red flag laws in Michigan, according to a March survey of Michigan voters. About 80% of Michigan voters support passage of safe storage gun laws, and nearly 88% support universal background checks.

The Court of Claims’ decision came on the same day that legislators passed another gun reform measure that establishes red flag laws in the state. The bill is heading to Gov. Whitmer’s office, where it is expected to be signed in the coming weeks.

State AG Nessel said Wednesday that she will defend the new gun safety laws “should they be challenged in court.”

“When these laws are enacted, I will use every tool of my office to ensure Michigan residents are informed of these laws and that they will be vigorously enforced,” Nessel said.

Though some are against the new gun safety measures, some gun violence prevention advocates argue that the steps recently taken by the Michigan Legislature -- though important -- are still not enough to fully tackle the growing gun problem. One nonprofit has ranked the state as 24th in the country for gun safety, saying Michigan lacks dozens of ‘key laws’ needed to address the violence.

Read: What are red flag laws? How can they tackle gun violence?

You can read the lawsuit in question below.

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.