Michigan Gun Law: Brandishing

“Brandishing” a gun may sound like an old-fashioned term, but the act is still thoroughly modern. Ironically, the Michigan statute making brandishing a firearm a misdemeanor did not define what constitutes “brandishing” until recently. The good news is that since the law was amended in 2015, there has been more clarity as to whether openly carrying a firearm in Michigan constitutes “brandishing.”

First things first: it is illegal to brandish a firearm in public in Michigan. Violation of the law is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of no more than $100 and/or a prison term of no more than 90 days. Prior to 2015, there was no statutory definition of “brandishing,” which left some obvious questions as to what did and did not constitute the crime. In 2015, the legislature amended the definition section of the law, but not the brandishing law itself, to add a specific definition of “brandishing.”

Since 2015, to brandish a firearm is to “point, wave about, or display [a firearm] in a threatening manner with the intent to induce fear in another person.” The law does exempt peace officers lawfully performing their duties and private individuals “lawfully acting in self-defense or defense of another under the self-defense act.”

This amendment has been hailed by open carry proponents. Prior to the amendment of the law to add a definition of brandishing, there was some confusion and disagreement whether open carrying of a firearm in Michigan constituted “brandishing.” Since Michigan does not have an affirmative law expressly authorizing open carry, the authority to do so comes from the lack of a law prohibiting it. The lack of a law either authorizing or prohibiting open carry of firearms has meant that other acts, such as brandishing a firearm, have been interpreted as violations of open carry.

This should no longer be the case with the new amendment, although to be sure, it does not explicitly state that open carrying of a firearm is not brandishing. Given the odd legal area in which open carry is allowed to exist, this is to be expected especially since a definition of brandishing has now been included.

Since brandishing is still a misdemeanor, there have not been many cases pursued under the law either before or after the amendment. This does not mean that it cannot happen, however, so it is always wise to know the law and understand what actions constitute brandishing.

If you have questions about brandishing or you or a loved one is facing charges of brandishing, contact the attorneys at Michigan Gun Law. They can answer your questions and help you understand your rights as a gun owner in Michigan.  

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