DETROIT (WXYZ) — "You think it doesn't hurt every time I think my grandson could have been dead? It hurts," said Itterlee McNeil whose eight-year-old grandson found a loaded gun she thought was well hidden in her Detroit home and shot his younger sibling.
Itterlee pleaded guilty to a child abuse charge, and since that accidental shooting in 2022, Itterlee has worked to get the message out to other adults to ensure safe storage of their firearms.
"I'm asking every parent in America to lock your guns. If you have a troubled kid, please get them some help," said Itterlee who hopes Michigan's new Safe Storage law will save people from injury or loss of life.
Michigan's new Safe Storage law takes effect Tuesday, February 13, 2024.
If you're a gun owner, you must lock your unattended firearm(s) in the presence of anyone under the age of 18.
If a minor obtains a gun because it was not stored properly, the owner of the gun could face a misdemeanor charge with a penalty of up to 93 days in jail.
If a minor obtains a gun and hurts someone with it, the gun owner could face a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
And if a minor kills someone with an unsecured firearm, the owner of that weapon could be charged with a felony that carries a 15-year penalty.
The fines attached range from $500 to $10,000.
If the law were in effect when the 15-year-old son of James and Jennifer Crumbley killed four students at Oxford High School in November 2021, the Crumbleys could have been charged criminally for failing to properly store their firearm, not involuntary manslaughter, and the maximum penalties could have still been the same.
"You have to keep them away from children. You don't have an option on this anymore," said Bill Kucyk, an attorney and retired police officer who is also the owner of Action Impact in Southfield and Eastpointe.
Kucyk said that despite cable locks being sold with each firearm, many people don't use them because they prevent the quick access that many gun owners want in the event of a potential threat.
Kucyk expects an increasing number of gun owners to use gun boxes that can be locked with a programmable code.
"You set your own code. There it is," said Kucyk as he demonstrated the quick access of a secured gun box.
"If you're going to buy a gun, you're going to have to budget a locking device into your budget. That's just how it's going to have to go," Kucyk said. "We don't want children getting their hands on guns, not only for their own protection but so they don't injure anybody else. That's what I think everybody's looking for. There's no sense debating this law anymore. It's effective February 13th."
Jon Gold of Giffords Gun Owners for Safety said it's important for people to realize that the law still applies to children who may be visiting your home.
Gold spoke at a press conference Wednesday held by End Gun Violence Michigan.
"I want to emphasize that this law is only enforced after there is a report of a child gaining access to a firearm. No one's coming into your house to check your guns. That's not what this is about. This is about safety and responsibility, and as gun owners, the responsibility starts with us."