City Commission adopts new weapons ordinance

Published on December 03, 2019

A board displaying real and replica guns

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The City Commission this evening voted to repeal the City’s firearms ordinance and replace it with a new weapons ordinance.

The new ordinance:

  • Regulates pneumatic guns as allowed by state law, including prohibiting brandishing, regulating discharge and prohibiting individuals younger than 16 from possessing them without supervision. 
  • Regulates other non-firearm projectile weapons, including bows and crossbows, in a manner consistent with pneumatic guns. These devices previously were treated as firearms under city code. 
  • Regulates imitation firearm toys consistent with federal law. This generally requires that imitation firearms cannot be possessed unless they have markings required by federal law – such as an orange tip or brightly colored body. Federally required markings cannot be altered. 
  • Regulates the seizure or forfeiture of weapons used in violation of the ordinance and provides a mechanism to dispose of weapons used in violation of the ordinance.
  • Requires reasonable parental responsibility for ensuring youth follow the ordinance.

Before voting on the proposed ordinance, the City Commission approved two amendments: one related to carrying firearms in public places and the other related to ordinance violations. The approved weapons ordinance retains the language in the previous ordinance that restricts carrying firearms in public places. First-time violations of the imitation weapon section of the ordinance are a civil infraction vs. a misdemeanor.  

In general, ordinance violations are a misdemeanor criminal offense punishable by a $500 fine, 90 days in jail or both. 

First-time violations of the imitation weapon section of the ordinance are subject to a civil infraction fine of $500. Second and subsequent violations of the imitation weapon section are subject to a misdemeanor criminal offense punishable by a $500 fine, 90 days in jail or both.

The new ordinance goes into effect April 1, 2020.

City staff are working with the Mayor’s Youth Council and other community partners to create an educational campaign around the changes. This will include making sure parents and youth know about the regulations around BB guns.

“Pneumatic guns have contributed to public safety concerns in our city,” City Attorney Anita Hitchcock said. “Pneumatic guns look like real guns – so much so that residents have called 911 believing they have seen real guns and our police officers have responded to what they think are real firearm calls.” 

Hitchcock said changes in state law – removal of pneumatic guns from the definition of firearms – meant the City’s previous firearms ordinance did not adequately regulate their use. State laws governing youth possession and use of pneumatic guns also were repealed, leaving it up to local governments to regulate them. The new ordinance aligns the City’s definition of firearm with the state law definition.

“The City Commission took a step this evening to improve public safety and assist with our community policing efforts by updating the ordinance to regulate pneumatic guns as allowed by state law,” Hitchcock said. 

Police Chief Eric Payne added: “This is about the safety of our community and our officers. Pneumatic guns and imitation firearms create challenges for our officers who in a split second have to determine whether they are real.”

He also said the department recovered 1,067 firearms – hand and long guns – and 201 BB, pellet and airsoft guns over the past three years.

“Real or not, they’re on our streets,” Payne said.

Assistant City Attorney Kristen Rewa noted the City’s current firearms ordinance had received only a few updates since it went into effect in 1967.

“This modernizes our ordinance to meet our city’s needs and advances our commitment to community and police working together for a safe community,” Rewa said.

Tagged as: