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Michigan House OKs bills to scrap county gun boards

Gary Heinlein
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — A revised version of vetoed legislation doing away with county oversight of concealed weapons permits is on its way back to the state Senate after House approval Wednesday.

While provisions Gov. Rick Snyder rejected last month were stripped out, the two-bill package is opposed by the Michigan Association of Counties and some lawmakers who argue local officials remain the best judges of who should be allowed to carry concealed handguns in their counties.

Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, urged House members to reject the proposal, which he said isn’t needed and makes less-certain the process by which law officers weed out applicants who shouldn’t be allowed to carry concealed guns.

“It’s a mistake to give away this opportunity for some local checks and balances,” Irwin said before the House vote.

Rep. Clint Kesto, R-Commerce Township, said the U.S. and Michigan constitutions guarantee everyone the right to keep and bear arms. People who aren’t violating the law, he argued, shouldn’t be denied the right to carry concealed weapons just because members of a gun board happen to believe “you know, he just doesn’t look right to have a gun.”

The legislation would do away with gun boards in each of the 83 counties.

Those boards — made up of prosecutors, sheriffs, police chiefs and State Police officials — review applications for concealed weapons permits from county residents.

It passed the House on a 76-34 vote Wednesday, but has to be reconsidered by the Senate because of revisions made by a House committee.

Under the legislation, applicants would apply for permits through county clerks, submitting fingerprints and proof of certified handgun-use training. They would get permits if they cleared State Police and national law enforcement criminal background checks.

Gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association and Republican Sen. Mike Green of Mayville, the chief sponsor, argue county gun boards are costly, cumbersome and outmoded. Supporters of the legislation also say the boards have resulted in uneven application of a 13-year-old concealed weapons statute designed to make the process more uniform.

Gun boards aren’t needed, Green says, under a 2001 “shall-issue” state law that says permits have to be granted to law-abiding applicants unless there’s a specified reason, such as mental illness, not to do so.

The county association, some sheriffs and some lawmakers say there still are reasons for retaining the gun board process. Local law enforcement, for example, might know of pending criminal charges against concealed gun permit applicants that wouldn’t yet show up on the national Law Enforcement Information Network.

GHeinlein@detroitnews.com

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