Rep. Mike Harris, R-Waterford, speaks against red flag legislation at the Michigan State Capitol on Thursday, April 13, 2023. Harris criticized the legislation for undermining due process rights and creating risks for law enforcement officers.
State Rep. Mike Harris on Thursday opposed a package of legislation that would let state government violate fundamental due process protections and confiscate weapons from law-abiding gun owners.
The bills would create extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs), also known as red flag orders, to seize weapons from a person who others say is likely to injure oneself or another person with a firearm. Harris, R-Waterford, noted that the bills would authorize courts to confiscate a mentally sound, law-abiding individual’s firearms based only on scant evidence. He also expressed concern that the bills provide no right to counsel for the defendant, and, in some cases, no right to a hearing before the defendant’s guns are seized.
“The proposed red flag laws would strip law-abiding citizens of due process, by taking their lawfully-owned weapons with minimal evidence and no opportunity for individuals to present counterarguments until after their weapons are confiscated,” Harris said. “We all agree that unstable and dangerous individuals should not have guns, but instead of addressing this problem, the red flag orders would allow the government to take weapons from responsible gun owners, relying only on baseless rumors and flimsy evidence.”
Both as a child and as a law enforcement officer, Harris has himself been a target of gun violence, and he said the state should work to reduce gun violence by addressing the underlying causes. Under the legislation, ERPOs would require seizure of the firearms of a person deemed unstable, but the bills do not require a judge to order or even recommend mental health treatment.
“These bills do not address the root causes of gun violence, such as mental illness,” Harris said. “For people who truly do need intervention, these bills would do nothing to get them the mental health care they need. This legislation is an attempt to treat symptoms while neglecting the underlying illness.”
Harris, who served as a police officer for more than 25 years, also noted that the hasty process poses risks to police officers tasked with executing the order and jeopardizes the relationship between law enforcement and people in the community.
“The rushed nature of red flag orders will lead to misunderstandings and confusing confrontations between law enforcement officers and well-meaning citizens who will be surprised by the orders,” Harris said. “This unfair enforcement process will undermine trust between police and the communities they serve.”
Harris added: “Red flag laws raise red flags about indispensable due process rights. Extreme risk protection orders present their own risks to the people and police of our state.”
The legislation passed the House and now proceeds to the Senate for further consideration.
“These shocking revelations set off alarm bells about Chair Witwer’s business ties and possible conflicts of interest, and they clearly illustrate the need for greater transparency and stronger ethical standards in Michigan government,” said Harris, R-Waterford.
“Countless Michiganders carry concealed weapons to defend themselves and their families, and unelected commissioners shouldn’t unilaterally take that right away in the Capitol that belongs to the people of our state,” said Harris, R-Waterford.