DETROIT (Michigan News Source) – Outgoing Michigan State Rep. Jeffrey Pepper (D-Dearborn) has introduced several bills this year regarding gun control, three of them being introduced recently on December 1st. Pepper, who represents the 15th District, won his seat in a May special election against his Republican challenger Ginger Shearer with 71% of the votes but did not run for re-election in November.

Pepper has sponsored four gun bills this year, the first of them being in June of 2022. The bill, his first after being sworn into office, is House Bill 6228 and it was introduced to expand the definition of weapons that can’t be sold, manufactured or possessed to include 3-D printed guns. At the time, Pepper had said in a press release that the bill would combat “ghost guns” by banning the possession, sale and use of 3-D printed firearms and that the guns and gun parts are created without serial numbers and potentially able to bypass existing security technology like metal detectors.

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Pepper said, “As a gun owner, I understand the importance of the Second Amendment – but that should not stop us from enacting sensible legislation to curb the senseless violence happening daily across our state…This simple, common-sense legislation is a step in the right direction to combat the gun violence epidemic and keep Michiganders safe.”

Other legislation he has sponsored to curb that violence epidemic includes three bills that were introduced on December 1st. They include HB 6544, 6545 and 6546.

House Bill 6544 is an attempt to ban assault weapons and would go into effect January 1 of 2024. The bill states in the first paragraph “A bill to ban the manufacture, possession, purchase and sale of assault weapons” and goes on to define an assault weapon as a “semiautomatic rifle that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has one or more of the following characteristics: a pistol grip or thumbhole stock; any feature capable of functioning as a protruding grip that can be held by the non trigger hand; and a folding or telescoping stock; a shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel and that permits the shooter to hold the firearm with the non trigger hand without being burned, but excluding a slide that encloses the barrel.”

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The bill allows those who already have an assault weapon to keep it as long as they register it with the department of state police in compliance with rules adopted for that purpose by the department of state police and as long as they renew that registration every five years. A person who violates this act would be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years.

Michigan News Source contacted Janalee Tobias, President and Founder of Women Against Gun Control, to ask what she thought of the bill and she said, “The proposed bill to ban firearms accessories chip away at a woman’s right to use semiautomatic rifles for self-defense that are easier to handle. Furthermore, HB6544’s inclusion of registering previously owned semiautomatic rifles with accessories should frighten anyone that understands that gun registration always leads to gun confiscation and is against the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

The other important bill sponsored by Pepper is House Bill 6546 which changes Michigan law. The new language, as written by Pepper says, “an individual shall not openly carry a rifle or shotgun in this state.” The exceptions in the bill include individuals who are engaged in target practice; someone on their own property; carrying by a peace officer or member of the Armed Forces while on duty; a person who is hunting; someone at a gun show or a federally licensed firearms dealer. Anyone found violating this law would be guilty of a misdemeanor the first time punishable by imprisonment for not more than one year or a fine of not more than $1,000 or both. The second offense would be a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than five years which is in the third piece of legislation, HB 6545.

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Tobias said about HB 6546 and the changes to the open carry law, “As in HB6544, the provision that provides for the forfeiture of firearms and electro-muscular disruption devices under certain circumstances gives government broad power to interpret conditions that would require forfeiture of self-defense weapons. Additionally, this proposed bill makes honest law-abiding citizens defenseless against criminals who are not honest law-abiding citizens. These two bills combined essentially destroys the citizens’ right to keep and bear arms which is necessary for the security of a free State.”

Tobias continued, “Since I started speaking out against gun control in 1993, I’ve always maintained that we need to discuss ways that would control crime that addresses the moral decay of society instead of spending so much time debating and passing more gun control laws which have done nothing to control crime. Because criminals don’t obey laws.”

All four of Pepper’s bills have been referred to the Committee on Military, Veterans and Homeland Security.

Matt Manda, Manager, Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), told Michigan News Source that the NSSF opposes both bills. He said, “Modern Sporting Rifles are commonly owned and extremely popular with law-abiding Michiganders who use them every day for recreational target shooting, hunting and for self-defense.”

He added, “More than 24.4 million MSRs are in circulation in the U.S., including among historic numbers of law-abiding African American men and women in Michigan who own them for those very reasons.”

The NSSF reports that the data for 2021 shows that the economic impact of just the sporting arms and ammunition industry in Michigan includes a total of 11,759 jobs and is a $1.88 billion industry, contributing significant amounts in tax revenue to the state and federal governments.

When asked about the legislation, Rep. Pepper told Michigan News Source, “Yes, I am a gun owner.  Reasonable regulation is not antithetical to the second amendment. We don’t get to possess or carry howitzers or stinger missiles. Reasonable is the key.”

Even though his term – and the possibility of the legislation passing – ends at the end of December, Pepper still decided to put the legislation in motion. He discussed why he wrote the end-of-the-year legislation that would most likely have to be re-introduced at the beginning of next year. He said he did so “because I campaigned on advancing gun safety proposals and my term is ending in December. This is a promise kept to my constituents. I have received numerous emails and calls on these bills, variously describing me as an idiot a tyrant, stupid and other high-brow commentary of the sort—none of which come from my constituents.”

When discussing the legislation and how the bills were written, Pepper said, “I wanted to provide an actual definition for weapons of mass destruction given that there is no precise definition currently and to ban such weapons to curtail the wanton, absurdly frequent and curtailable slaughter of American citizens in schools, churches, markets, theaters, concerts and workplaces.”

He continued, “As to the open carry of long arms, well, I want to ban it. Michiganders have a right to go to the fruit market and not be intimidated by some camo wearing dude with an AR-15 slung over his shoulder, peace-loving though he might be. I don’t want to see them being carried into concerts or graduation ceremonies or sporting events OR IN THE STATE CAPITOL. No one can ascertain the intentions of someone who carries a weapon of mass destruction doing ordinary things. If such carry is banned, then we will all know that the person violating the ban is a bad guy with a gun. In other words, a criminal. This has nothing to due with pistols or CPL licensees.”