GOP lawmakers seek to eliminate requirement for concealed carry license

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Lawmakers are considering legislation that would eliminate state requirements for concealed pistol training or licensing in Michigan.

The legislation also would ease bans on carrying a concealed pistol in a child care center, sporting arena, bar, church, hospital, or college campus by allowing private entities to either deny or allow concealed carry in those locations. If those locations were public, concealed carry would be allowed by default, said Rep. Steve Johnson, a sponsor of the five-bill package.

Existing concealed carry bans at schools would stay in place under this legislation.

A man wears an unloaded pistol during a pro gun-rights rally in Austin, Texas.

“What we’re really doing when we declare a place to be a gun-free zone is informing would be criminals that this location is where you can safely assume their victims will be defenseless,” said Rep. John Reilly, R-Oakland Township, a sponsor of the bill.

Much of the proposed legislation brings concealed carry rules on par with open carry laws, which don’t require a license or training under Michigan law, said Johnson, R-Wayland.

“Michigan firearm laws are very tough,” Johnson said. “It’s a five-year felony if you have a gun and you put a coat on and cover it and you don’t have that CPL.”

The House Military, Veterans and Homeland Security committee held Tuesday its first hearing on the bill package and is likely to refer it to the Judiciary Committee next week, said Rep. Beau LaFave, the Iron Mountain Republican who chairs the military, veterans and homeland security committee.

“This will keep a lot of law-abiding citizens from becoming felons,” by inadvertently breaking current Michigan concealed carry laws, LaFave said.

The bill package would have a hard time gaining favor from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, whose office on Wednesday said it opposed the legislation. 

Background checks, which are part of the concealed carry licensing process, will still be part of the pistol purchasing process, he said.

With the elimination of the CPL requirement, people would be able to carry a pistol in a vehicle without a license and wouldn’t be charged the $115 fee to be licensed, a price Johnson said isn’t placed on other constitutional rights such as voting.

“You’re not allowed to do that with speech, you’re not allowed to do that with voting rights, you can’t put fees in order to do something,” he said. “I think this is truly a Constitutional measure.”

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America opposed the bills in committee, and several Michigan hospital companies submitted cards in opposition.

By taking away safeguards such as the concealed carry requirements, legislators “put our communities at risk,” said Carmi Finn, a Warren resident and member of Moms Demand Action.

“Our legislators should be focusing on policies that protect Michiganders from gun violence, not put them in further danger,” Finn said.

The Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia and Michigan Open Carry were among the groups testifying in support of the legislation, which they said addresses the “gray line” in Michigan on concealed carry.

There is nothing inherently wrong with concealing a pistol, yet the state penalizes violations of concealed carry law with up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $2,500, said Tom Lambert, president and legislative director for Michigan Open Carry.

“I am completely fine with punishing people who do bad things with firearms,” Lambert said. “But it is wrong to me to punish an otherwise benign action, especially so severely.”

The legislation would retain licensing options for people who want training or for the sake of reciprocity with licensing requirements in other states.

“But it gets rid of the requirement that you have to have it,” Johnson said.