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Lansing — A bill approved Thursday by Michigan's Republican-led House would decrease the consequences for someone carrying a concealed pistol with an expired license.

The proposal, approved in a 90-19 bipartisan vote, would charge people with a civil fine instead of a felony if the carrier's concealed pistol license had expired within the previous year. A second offense would be treated as a misdemeanor.

Offenders would be exempt from even the civil fine if they obtained a license renewal within 60 days of the violation.

Currently, carrying a concealed pistol with an expired license is a felony carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison and up to a $2,500 fine. Those penalties have been enforced to greater or less extent across the state depending on the discretion of the prosecutor, said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Matt Hall, R-Emmett Township.

“We believe the punishment does not fit the crime and a civil infraction is the right way to handle a paperwork oversight,” Hall said.

CPLs expire after five years and owners are notified of the pending expiration via a mailed notice from the county clerk, Hall said. The notice goes to the address used for registration five years prior, an address that may not be accurate anymore.

“People who are CPL holders are subject to a background check,” Hall said. “These by definition are law-abiding individuals so if the only crime they’ve committed is forgetting to renew their paperwork I don’t think they should be a felon.”

Michigan Open Carry, Michigan Gun Owners and the National Rifle Association were among the groups supporting the reform. The Michigan State Police, League of Women Voters and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America opposed it.

The state police agree an expired CPL likely shouldn't be a felony, said Shanon Banner, a spokeswoman for the department. However, she said, carrying a firearm is a "serious responsibility" and "this proposed legislation lowers the consequence to a point that carrying a firearm with an expired license is lesser of a penalty than driving a vehicle with an expired license."

Michigan Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America criticized the vote in a statement Friday afternoon, noting that the state's permitting system was "in place for good reason."

“The last thing lawmakers should be doing is making public safety laws more lax. We’ll be urging our senators to listen to law enforcement and to constituents — and to reject this attempt to loosen Michigan’s gun laws," Emily Durbin, a volunteer chapter leader for the group.

In a separate 67-42 vote, the Republican-led House also approved legislation that would allow someone to transport a loaded shotgun in a vehicle, including an all-terrain vehicle, on private land. Current law requires that the gun is unloaded and secured within a case or trunk.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, said the legislation would bring parity between the rules governing shotguns, long guns and rifles — which are required to be cased during transport on private property — and pistols, slingshots or crossbows — which are not required to be cased.

“My bill repeals that section and updates it so there’s parity between shotguns and slingshots and crossbows on private property,” LaFave said.

The National Rifle Association and Michigan Open Carry supported the bill in committee, while the state Department of Natural Resources and Michigan United Conservation Clubs opposed it.

The department opposed the legislation because of the potential for an accidental discharge of the firearm, said DNR spokesman Ed Golder. Unlike pistols that are secured in holsters when not stored in a glove box or console, long guns are less easily secured outside of a case or trunk. 

"Long guns can fall while in transport, and hasty efforts to grab them can result in inadvertent discharge," Golder said. "In addition, rough terrain can cause long guns in vehicles to misfire."

Detroit News Staff Writer Jonathan Oosting contributed

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