Michigan man charged for not storing gun safely after toddler shoots herself

Michael Tolbert

FLINT, Mich. — A Michigan man whose 3-year-old daughter shot herself with his revolver last week is the first person charged under the state’s new law requiring the safe storage of firearms, prosecutors said.

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Michael Tolbert, 44, of Flint, is facing nine charges, including first-degree child abuse, five counts of felony weapons charges, a felon in possession of a firearm, a felon in possession of ammunition, lying to a peace officer and violating Michigan’s safe storage law, WNEM-TV reported.

Officially known as Public Act 17 of 2023, the legislation requires individuals “to keep unattended weapons unloaded and locked with a locking device or stored in a locked box or container if it is reasonably known that a minor is likely to be present on the premises,” online records state.

The law went into effect on Feb. 13, a day before the shooting, The Detroit News reported.

John Potbury, Genesee County’s deputy chief assistant prosecuting attorney, said that Tolbert’s daughter remained in critical condition on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

According to Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, Tolbert took his 3-year-old daughter to Hurley Medical Center in Flint on Feb. 14, WNEM reported. Tolbert told medical personnel that his daughter was suffering from a gunshot wound to her head.

Police went to Tolbert’s home after obtaining a search warrant and found evidence of a gunshot wound on the floor of a bedroom near a toddler-sized folding chair, according to WJRT-TV.

Investigators found a revolver and a semi-automatic pistol that were both loaded and unsecured, Leyton said.

The prosecutor said there was a single gunshot hole in the ceiling of the room. He added that the bullet wound entered the child’s right eye and exited through her skull.

The girl’s aunt, LaDorothy Griggs, said the family is praying for the toddler to survive the shooting.

“We are just trying our best to stay strong right now, but it’s very difficult right now,” Griggs told WJRT. “We are just devastated.”

The Legislature passed the safe storage law in 2023, the News reported. It was part of a series of new gun regulation laws signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer following a deadly shooting on the campus of Michigan State University, according to the newspaper.

“Now that we have this in place, it was our goal to be able to give prosecutors tools, because with this right comes an extraordinary responsibility,” State Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet, D-Bay City, who co-sponsored the bill, told the News. “I did not ever dream that within days of the law going into effect, we would need it, but here we are.”

“We are glad something is being done, but aren’t happy,” Griggs told WJRT. “If you’re going to have your guns -- I know we can’t change everyone’s mind who has them -- but put them away, lock them up, don’t leave them out around nobody.”

According to online court records, Tolbert was being held at the Genesee County Jail with bail totaling $250,000.

The toddler’s family has started a GoFundMe page to cover her medical expenses.

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