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Revised gun board bills get Senate OK, move to House

Gary Heinlein
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Without debate or discussion Tuesday, the state Senate quickly passed a new version of legislation, vetoed by Gov. Rick Snyder last month, that would do away with county gun boards whose members for 87 years have decided who should be allowed to carry concealed weapons in Michigan.

The fast-moving package of two bills was approved on 28-9 votes and now will go to the House for consideration. It was reintroduced by the chief sponsor, Republican Sen. Mike Green of Mayville, soon after Snyder rejected last year’s version in early January.

The bills were sent to the full Senate last week from the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Green testified his legislation no longer contains provisions Snyder feared would allow people under personal protection orders to legally carry concealed weapons.

Green disagrees with Snyder’s conclusions, speculating that objections to his bills were raised by opponents who simply want to see fewer guns in circulation.

The liberal group Progress Michigan blasted the Senate action.

It’s as an example of the Legislature’s GOP majority “bowing to the whims of corporate lobbyists, like the National Rifle Association, who are only concerned about selling more and more guns,” said Lonnie Scott, its executive director.

Advocates for victims of domestic violence and the Michigan Association of Counties were among opponents of last year’s version of Green’s legislation.

An official of the counties group said last week it remains opposed to the proposals because local leaders believe they unnecessarily take away local control of gun permitting.

Dana Gill, the association’s governmental affairs associate, told The Detroit News the county gun board system “works appropriately to ensure both access and safety.”

One of the “no” voters Tuesday, Democratic Sen. Steve Bieda of Warren, said he shares concerns about the loss of local control. Bieda, who abstained from voting on the bills last week as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also said he would have liked more time to review the new legislation.

Under the bills, concealed weapons applicants would apply and obtain permits through county clerks rather than gun boards, beginning Oct. 1 this year. Applicants would have to submit fingerprints and proof they’d received certified training.

Before granting permits, the clerks would be required to have the Michigan State Police through the Law Enforcement Information Network do national background checks to ensure applicants don’t have criminal records.

When Snyder vetoed the measures lawmakers passed in December, he said the proposed law changes could let individuals with personal protection orders against them convince judges to let them carry concealed weapons.

Green disagreed, saying federal safeguards exist, but revised his proposals to eliminate references to personal protection orders. His original legislation would have allowed applicants under PPOs to get permits as long as the judges’ orders didn’t prohibit them.

His new legislation does contain a provision entitling someone being protected by a judge’s order to get an “emergency” concealed weapons permit if a sheriff determined the applicant, a household or family member was endangered by the inability to do so fast enough through the normal process.

In support of his legislation, Green says county gun board reviews, the state mechanism for granting concealed weapon permits since 1927, are an anachronism that slows the process and adds to the costs. The local boards, usually made up of law enforcement officers and prosecutors, have substantially less discretion as a result of changes enacted by the state Legislature 14 years ago.

The 2000 legislation, which Green also sponsored as a then-state representative, revised the state’s concealed weapons law to make Michigan a “shall issue” state. It requires concealed weapons permits to be granted to law-abiding citizens unless there is a specified reason for not doing so, such as mental illness.

Progress Michigan’s Scott countered Green’s arguments by saying the number of concealed pistol permits issued in Michigan rose from 30,000 to 110,000 in the 2003-13 period, and the time needed to get law enforcement clearance for permits dropped from 11 days to about two hours.

“To most rational people, it would seem as though this process has been sufficiently streamlined,” Scott said.