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After 2-year-old shoots self, man charged under state gun storage law

The man is the first to be charged under Michigan's law requiring safe storage of guns, just days after the new measure took effect.
After 2-year-old shoots self, man charged under state gun storage law
Posted at 6:43 AM, Feb 22, 2024

A Michigan man whose 2-year-old daughter shot herself in the head with his revolver last week became the first person charged under the state's new law requiring safe storage of guns, just days after the new measure took effect as part of a sweeping reform of gun regulations in the state.

Michael Tolbert, 44, of Flint, was arraigned Monday on nine felony charges including single counts of first-degree child abuse and violation of Michigan's gun storage law, said John Potbury, Genesee County's deputy chief assistant prosecuting attorney.

Tolbert's daughter remained hospitalized Wednesday in critical condition from the Feb. 14 shooting, Potbury said. The youngster shot herself the day after Michigan's new safe storage gun law took effect.

A not guilty plea was entered Monday on behalf of Tolbert, who also faces one count each of felon in possession of a firearm, felon in possession of ammunition, lying to a peace officer in a violent crime investigation and four counts of felony firearm, Potbury said.

He said Tolbert is barred from possessing firearms and ammunition because he has multiple firearms-related felony convictions and drug-related convictions.

Tolbert was being held at the Genesee County Jail on bond amounts totaling $250,000, according online court records.

He became the first person charged with violating the law, which took effect on Feb. 13, the one-year anniversary of when a gunman entered a classroom at Michigan State University, killing two students and leaving others critically wounded.

The law took effect a week after a Michigan jury convicted a shooter's mother of involuntary manslaughter, making her the first parent in the U.S. to be held responsible for a child carrying out a mass school shooting. Gun accessibility was an issue in the trial and investigators say Jennifer and James Crumbley failed to properly secure the gun. James Crumbley faces trial on the same charge next month in the 2021 shooting at Oxford High School that killed four students.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said at a news conference Tuesday announcing the charges against Tolbert that the law "went into effect one week ago today. This incident occurred the very next day."

Flint police learned of the shooting after Tolbert took the girl to a hospital. Officers found two guns in the bedroom of the man's home: a revolver used in a the shooting and a semiautomatic pistol. Both were unsecured and loaded. Police said they found no gun locks or safes in the bedroom.

Tolbert's next hearing is a Feb. 29 probable cause conference. A court employee said Tolbert would be assigned a public defender but directed calls to the county's chief public defender. A message was left Wednesday with the chief public defender by The Associated Press asking for the name of Tolbert's attorney.

Because Tolbert is a habitual offender, he could receive an enhanced prison of up to life in prison if he's convicted of failing to safely store his firearms, Potbury said. Tolbert also could face up to life in prison if he's convicted on the first-degree child abuse charge, he said.

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