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Judge rules Michigan lawmakers violated open meetings law during debate on gun control legislation

State Capitol Building
State of Michigan
State Capitol Building

Judge Robert Redford ruled that the House violated the Open Meetings Act by limiting testimony on bills that would expand background checks, implement so-called red-flag laws and mandate safe storage in homes when children are present

A judge has ruled that Michigan lawmakers violated the state’s open meetings laws during public hearings on gun control legislation.

Court of Claims Judge Robert Redford ruled Thursday that the House of Representatives violated the Open Meetings Act by limiting testimony during committee hearings on the bills this past spring, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The legislation expands background checks, implements so-called red-flag laws, which allow judges to temporarily confiscate a firearm from an individual, and imposes safe storage requirements on guns in homes where children are present. The laws are set to go into effect Feb. 13, exactly a year after a gunman opened fire at Michigan State University, killing three students and injuring five others.

Committees in both the House and Senate heard mostly from the legislation’s supporters during hearings in March and April. Speakers from Great Lakes Gun Rights and Michigan Open Carry were allowed to submit cards in opposition but were not allowed to speak during a House committee hearing on the red-flag bills. Lawmakers said they were under a time constraint.

The Open Meetings Act requires public bodies to make meetings and actions accessible to the public. Under the act, entities must make time for members of the public who attend meetings to speak, although they can impose time limitations.

Great Lakes Gun Rights and Michigan Open Carry filed a lawsuit in April asking a judge to issue a temporary restraining order against the laws, arguing lawmakers violated the Open Meetings Act by not allowing balanced testimony during committee hearings on the bills.

Redford, the judge, declined to enter an injunction to bring the House into compliance with the act, saying lawmakers can determine the rules of their own proceedings. He said in his decision there was no indication the Senate violated the act.

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