The Truth Will Set You Free .....
On Thursday, one day before the tragedy in Connecticut where at least 29 people were killed at an elementary school, the Republican-controlled Michigan legislaturepassed a bill that would allow people to bring guns into schools.
Amidst a lameduck session that has spawned a host of right-wing legislation, including a so-called “right-to-work” law and an extreme abortion ban, a “sweeping rewrite of Michigan’s concealed handgun law” was also approved yesterday. The legislation changes Michigan’s gun laws in a number of ways, including making it easier for people to receive a gun permit and opening up “gun free zones,” including schools and elsewhere, to people carrying concealed firearms.
The most sweeping rewrite of Michigan’s concealed handgun law in more than a decade includes details that go well beyond opening so-called “gun free zones” to hidden weapons.
The state House on Thursdaypassed the bill 68-41 and sent it to Gov. Rick Snyder, one of many laws sped through a lame-duck session that did not conclude until early Friday morning.
Aside from allowing concealed pistols in schools and other places, a number of measures are aimed at streamlining a permit process critics say remains far from uniform statewide.
Sheriffs will oversee all permit approvals. The state’s 83 county gun boards, in place since 1927, will be abolished. County clerks will still handle processing.
Decisions must be made faster, partial refunds to applicants are required if they are not, and communication to permit holders must be better.
Some believe safety is being sacrificed. Gun-board reviews included state police and prosecutors in addition to sheriffs’ representatives.
“That means there are fewer eyes on the process. Guns are life and death, and handguns are far more likely to be used domestically,” said Mary Hollinrake, Kent County clerk and co-chair of the Michigan Association of County Clerks’ legislative committee.
“Those three offices on the panel generally know the bad actors,” she said, especially in smaller counties. “Somebody can raise a red flag.”
The sponsor of the new bill - who also led the last major revision, likewise approved in the Legislature’s waning lame-duck hours - argues it improves safety.
State Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville, said the law “improves service to taxpayers and strengthens (concealed pistol license) training requirements so that Michigan will have the strongest training standard in the nation."
The legislation is the largest rewrite of Michigan’s concealed weapon law since lawmakers made hard-to-obtain permits much easier for adults to receive beginning July 2001. Applications exploded. There were 351,599 permit holders as of Dec. 1, one for every 20 adults.
Most of the attention on the new bill has focused on provisions allowing hidden handguns in places where they are now forbidden, such as schools, churches and large entertainment venues.
The new law continues the minimum eight hours of training required to obtain a concealed pistol license. But effective May 1, it boosts firing-range requirements from 30 rounds to 98. Those who complete an additional eight hours of training and another 94 rounds on the firing range are eligible to carry in so-called gun-free zones.
Private-property owners can still ban the weapons under trespass laws, but not schools and other public venues, said Ryan Mitchell, an aide to Green who worked closely on the legislation. Public universities could also prohibit them because they are constitutionally separate.
Nowhere in the zones will gun owners be able to openly carry their handguns any longer, a little-known but legal option.
“We already expect that this bill is going to get a bad rap because people don’t understand the current law, and that's understandable” Mitchell said.
“But people have to ask themselves: Are they really comfortable with openly carried firearms in schools? If not, I think they’d rather have it concealed. And not only does it have to be concealed, you have to get significant additional training.”
Beyond the gun zones, however, the law has many requirements aimed at speeding the concealed permit process itself:
• Decisions on initial permits would have to be made within 45 days of completed background checks. Now, the 45-day clock does not start until later in the process. In some places approvals took six months or more. Renewals also must be processed within 45 days, as opposed to 60 currently.
• After the 45 days, a 180-day temporary permit must be issued, as well as refunds of up to $41, equal to the county’s portion of the $105 application fee.
• Clerks would be required to mail renewal notices to concealed permit holders three to six months before expiration, to avoid unintentional lapses. Approved licenses must be mailed as well.
• Lawmakers also added language specifically exempting sheriffs or clerks from being sued should a concealed license holder later commit a crime or “negligent act.”
Current permit holders seeking renewals would have to certify they have completed the full 98 rounds of firing-range requirements, but authorities could not require proof.
Also, those seeking to carry concealed handguns where they are now banned can be charged a $20 application fee, unless it’s at the same time they are seeking their initial permit or at renewal.