New Michigan gun bill gets quick OK

Gary Heinlein
The Detroit News

Lansing — A new version of gun legislation that Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed earlier this month is headed for a Senate vote following quick approval on Tuesday by its Judiciary Committee.

The 4-0 committee vote, with Democratic Sen. Steve Bieda of Warren abstaining, sent the two-bill package to the full Senate for consideration.

Republican Sen. Mike Green of Mayville, the sponsor, said his new version no longer contains provisions Snyder feared might allow people under personal protection orders to legally carry concealed weapons. Snyder cited that objection in the veto explanation he sent lawmakers earlier this month.

Green defended before the Judiciary Committee his earlier proposed changes, which he said he had spent nearly a year crafting to meet recommendations from law enforcement leaders and others. He said claims by opponents, which preceded Snyder’s veto, were false.

“There’s a a whole lot of people who want less guns ... and are going to look for everything (objectionable) they can find,” Green said.

Advocates for victims of domestic violence were the strongest opponents of the earlier legislation, but the Michigan Association of Counties also objected.

The association registered its rejection of the new legislation as well, but didn’t present testimony at the committee hearing.

“We feel this is a local-control issue,” Dana Gill, the association’s governmental affairs associate, told The Detroit News later. “We believe the current system works appropriately to ensure both access and safety.”

The new legislation, which Green introduced soon after Snyder vetoed his bills from last session, is expected to move quickly to a full-Senate approval vote with the blessing of the upper Senate’s top leader.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said the two-bill package, eliminating county gun board reviews of concealed weapons applications, will move “pretty rapidly.”

When Snyder vetoed a Green-sponsored gun measure lawmakers passed at the end of the last session in December, he expressed concern that it could let individuals with personal protection orders against them convince judges to let them carry concealed weapons.

“That would be a rare and really weird experience if that did happen,” said Meekhof, R-West Olive. “I don’t necessarily agree with the governor, but understand the point that if we wanted the other part of that bill implemented, we needed to do this.”

The main thrust of Green’s National Rifle Association-backed legislation is to eliminate the gun boards in each county, usually made up of prosecutors and law enforcement leaders.

Gun boards, the state mechanism for granting concealed weapon permits since 1927, are an anachronism that slows the permitting process and adds to applicants’ costs, said Green, who also was chief sponsor of legal changes passed in 2000 that transformed Michigan to a “shall issue” state.

The law changes require concealed weapons permits to be issued to law-abiding applicants unless there are certain specific reasons for not doing so, such as mental illness. Green argued that change eliminated the need for gun boards, which now have limited discretion and deny few applications.

Under his legislation, concealed weapons permits would be issued by county clerks rather than county gun boards. The Michigan State Police, which endorsed the legislation, would review concealed weapons applicants and notify county clerks of any law violations that would make them ineligible for the permits.

Concealed weapons applicants would apply through county clerks, to whom they’d provide fingerprints and proof they had completed mandatory training courses. The clerks would send the fingerprints to the state police for the required criminal background checks.

Last year’s concealed weapons measure was one of the final bills passed during an all-night December legislation session in which lawmakers hammered out a package of bills to boost annual road repair funding by at least $1.2 billion.

Detroit News Staff Writer Chad Livengood contributed.