Snyder signs legislation to kill county gun boards

Gary Heinlein
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing – -- Gov. Rick Snyder signed bills into law Wednesday that do away with a long-standing system under which county gun boards decide who can receive permits allowing them to legally carry concealed handguns.

The bills are a revised version of late-2014 legislation Snyder vetoed, saying he was concerned it would allow the permits to be awarded to domestic abusers with judge’s personal protection orders lodged against them. Those provisions were stricken from the legislation he approved Wednesday.

“I appreciate that the Legislature revamped this legislation, removing any unintended consequences that could have put domestic abuse victims in danger,” the governor said in a statement, adding the bills streamline the permit process and make it more uniform.

The main bill of the two-bill package, sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Green of Mayville, eliminates county gun boards Dec. 1. Applicants instead will apply for permits through county clerks, submitting fingerprints and proof of certified handgun-use training. They get permits if they clear state police and national law enforcement criminal background checks.

State police also are required to create an Internet permit renewal system by October 2018.

This change affects only concealed weapons. It has no impact on the right of citizens in Michigan to openly carry rifles, shotguns and handguns.

The Michigan Association of Counties and some lawmakers and physician groups opposed the change, arguing county gun board members are the best judges of which local residents should be granted concealed-carry permits. The boards usually are made up of sheriffs, prosecutors, police chiefs and state police officials.

Daniel Webster, a researcher for Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said the bills they remove the ability to deny a license to someone not explicitly disqualified by law but still a danger to society. Ann Arbor physician Jerry Walden, co-leader of 220-member Physicians for the Prevention of Gun violence, said domestic abusers will be able to carry hidden guns in cases known to police but in which victims were afraid to press charges or obtain personal protection orders.

The National Rifle Association and other legislative supporters maintain that concealed weapons permits are included in U.S. and state constitutional guarantee of citizens’ right to keep and carry arms.

They also say the law changes Snyder approved Wednesday are an extension of Michigan’s transition to a “shall-issue” state. Under a 2000 law Green sponsored, each Michiganian has the right to be issued a concealed a weapon permit unless there are specific reasons, such as mental illness, not to grant one.

Snyder said Michigan is the 47th state to make these changes in its concealed pistol licensing process.