Snyder vetoes gun bills with protection order change

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed two bills Thursday backed by the National Rifle Association that could have made it easier for some people accused of domestic violence to obtain a concealed weapon license.

Snyder said the bills contained reforms to Michigan's concealed weapons law that he supports, but included some changes that might inadvertently increase the risk of violence and intimidation faced by domestic abuse victims who seek court protection.

"I didn't feel comfortable with signing these bills with the possibility that ... someone that has a protective order on them could essentially go get a concealed weapon," Snyder said at a Lansing news conference for a different bill signing.

Senate Bill 789 contained a provision that would have required authorities to issue a concealed pistol license to someone subject to a personal protection order for domestic violence or stalking unless a judge indicated they were not allowed to purchase or carry a gun, according to a legislative analysis.

"Under current law, no person who is subject to such an order may obtain such a license," Snyder wrote in his veto letter to legislators. "The bill would have amended the restriction, preventing the issuance only if the prohibition was specifically spelled out by the court."

Snyder said the bill would have removed a "blanket protection in cases when the PPO fails to specifically address firearms — whatever the reason for the omission — it may increase the risks faced by victims."

Sen. Mike Green, the bill sponsor, said Thursday he was trying to clarify existing law and that the Michigan State Police and a domestic victims' rights group had no issue with the language in the bill before it was sent to Snyder last month.

"There was confusion with this PPO issue, and we tried to fix the confusion and with our fix it gave the governor an excuse to veto it," said Green, R-Mayville. "People don't understand the bill."

Snyder said he would work with the state Legislature on revised legislation that wouldn't put domestic abuse victims at risk.

The bills also would have eliminated the 83 county boards for issuing concealed pistol licenses. The Michigan State Police and county clerks would have assumed administrative functions.

The legislation was approved during an all-night session of the Legislature in December that passed a road repair funding compromise. Green voted to put the road funding measure on the statewide ballot after the House approved his gun legislation.

The Republican governor side-stepped a question Thursday about whether he felt compelled to sign the bill after Green voted for the road funding package.

Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell urged Snyder to veto the bill.

The Dearborn Democrat applauded Snyder's veto after raising her personal history in urging the second-term governor to veto the measure.

"As someone who lived for years in an environment that could erupt violently at any point, I recognize provisions in this legislation as a serious threat to protecting Michigan women, children and communities, and quite frankly even men," Dingell wrote.

The Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence praised Snyder Thursday for vetoing the bill.

The National Rifle Association said Thursday the veto was "extremely disappointing" and based on "fallacies and a basic misunderstanding of the law" advanced by anti-gun and domestic violence groups after the bills reached the governor's desk. The concerns were never raised last year when the legislation was debated and could have been rebutted, the group said.

"If an individual is a domestic abuser and has been charged or convicted as such, or a judge has made a determination that the individual should not be allowed to purchase or possess a firearm, that person will be prohibited from receiving a concealed pistol license under SB 789," the NRA said in a statement.

Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Arizona, who was seriously wounded by a gunman, welcomed Snyder's veto.

"I thank Gov. Snyder for doing the responsible thing, standing up for common sense and vetoing this misguided legislation that would have made Michigan families less safe," Giffords said in a statement.