House panel OKs permitless concealed pistol plan

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Carrying a concealed pistol in Michigan without a permit or completing any gun safety training would be legal under a package of bills that a House committee approved Tuesday.

The measure now goes to the full House for consideration after Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee approved the package in a series of 6-4 votes with all Democrats voting no. Democrats failed to persuade the panel to approve any amendments leaving intact some current restrictions for carrying concealed pistols.

The plan would scrap criminal penalties for people who carry concealed pistols without permits, effectively eliminating the need for a permit in most parts of the state. People who want to carry concealed firearms must currently pay for a $100 permit application plus a fingerprint fee and another $115 every four years to renew the license. Gun training classes can cost hundreds of dollars.

Gun rights activists said the state’s current permit process is essentially a “coat tax” because gun owners need a permit to place a pistol in their coat but not to wear it openly on their hip. Opponents said the bills would make Michigan less safe, fearing that more people will roam the streets and sidewalks with guns hidden in their waistbands or coats.

The new package has won the support of House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-Dewitt, who said current permit requirements “may be outdated” because state law doesn’t require any permit to openly carry firearms.

“It’ll work its way through the committee process, but he thinks it’s a good package of bills,” Leonard spokesman Gideon D’Assandro previously told The Detroit News.

Committee chairman Rep. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, and other Republicans rejected Democrat-backed amendments that would have stopped people who are currently barred from obtaining a concealed pistol license from carrying a pistol without a permit. Republicans did not offer an explanation for their votes.

Under the package, people with certain misdemeanor convictions could carry concealed weapons even though their criminal records currently stop them from getting a permit. They potentially include those with certain sexual assault or sex offender convictions.

The original Republican-backed concealed carry law passed in 2000 sparked fears by opponents of a spike in shootings — something that did not happen. At that time, supporters said restrictions such as completing training and getting a permit would be prudent safeguards.

Lawmakers sent the bills to the full House after Second Amendment supporters and gun control advocates two weeks ago flooded an earlier committee hearing on the legislation.


Twitter: @MikeGerstein