As Michigan’s roughly 600,000 hunters prepare for the 2024 season, lawmakers are warning about recent legislation that turns law-abiding gun owners into criminals for participating a long-held tradition.

Tucked into gun-control legislation approved by the Democratic majority in the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last year is a provision that makes it illegal to gift a hunting rifle to a family member without an FBI background check.

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The change, which took effect in February, means “individuals who inherit a firearm are required to obtain a license and undergo a background check within 30 days of taking possession,” according to analysis from the Van Den Heuvel Law Office.

“Those interested in purchasing, inheriting or receiving a firearm as a gift must go to a law enforcement agency to clear a background check and attest that they are qualified under Michigan law to have a license to purchase a firearm,” Michigan Advance reports.

Whitmer told gun control activists in Washington, DC last week the changes from Michigan’s “commonsense, gun violence prevention majority” in the state Legislature are designed to “protect Michiganders” so they can “live their lives without fear.”

Republicans unified against the legislation offered a different assessment when the laws went into effect in February.

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“The Democrat majority forced through terrible gun legislation that I opposed at every level,” said state Rep. Cam Cavitt, R-Cheboygan. “Bills like these set a dangerous precedent for violating Second Amendment rights. I’m committed to undoing these dangerous policies. Our constitutional rights are the bedrock to our society, and we must hold up and honor those rights.

“However, the radical Democrat plan is now law and people need to be prepared,” Cavitt said.

“There’s some issues on how guns can be passed down in the family that are going to be affected by these bills, and I’m hearing from a lot of my constituents that they’re very concerned that government overreach has just gone too far with this,” Rep. Ken Borton, R-Gaylord told WWTV.

The gun-control package was also strongly opposed by Michigan’s leading conservation group, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, which laid out the reasons why last year. MUCC did, however, support a sales tax exemption for firearm safety devices and worked diligently to remove provisions that would have directly limited outdoor pursuits.

“MUCC’s written testimony impacted the subsequent amendments to the legislation by pointing out the proposed provisions on long guns that would have undermined hunting and recreational shooting, truly defying common sense,” an MUCC analysis read. “The original requirement for a license to possess, carry or transport other firearms in addition to what is currently required for pistols was removed. So in short, you can still loan out a long gun under this amended proposal.”

While the new laws will create hurdles for Michiganders who want to pass on their hunting traditions, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has suggested it’s a small price to pay to prevent shootings, such as those in recent years at Oxford High School and Michigan State University.

“To commemorate the horrible anniversary of the MSU shooting, I can think of no better way to honor the victims of that event than to have these new gun safety laws put into effect,” she told WWTV, adding that the legislation will “definitely” save lives.

Lansing Democrats, meanwhile, are blocking a dozen-bill package crafted by a bipartisan School Safety Task Force specifically aimed at increasing school security and implementing best practices to prevent school shootings.

“They’re taking years, literally years, to react to protecting our children,” Steve St. Juliana, father of a student killed at Oxford High School in 2021, told Bridge Michigan. “I think it’s inexcusable.”

The legislation has languished in committee for two years no movement, despite efforts by Rep. Jamie Greene, R-Richmond, to force a hearing in March. She couldn’t get a single Democrat to agree.

“The people we represent want us to do something to improve the safety of Michigan schools,” Greene said. “We have a well-thought-out, bipartisan plan with broad support and the chair of our committee will not hold a hearing to get the ball rolling.”

Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville, co-chair of the School Safety Task Force, said he’s concerned the stonewalling has more to do with election year politics than preventing another school shooting.

“Those parents watching all of this from the outside, I don’t blame them for being absolutely frustrated,” he told Bridge. “They have every reason to be.”