Michigan gun owners could carry concealed weapons without a license, letting license-holders carry in gun-free zones and carry loaded weapons on off-road vehicles under Republican-sponsored bills pending in the state House.
With firearm legislation flying, the House Committee on Military, Veterans and Homeland Security took up two gun-related bills this week — one to decriminalize carrying a concealed pistol with an expired license, and another to allow residents to carry loaded rifles on their own property, including on off-road vehicles.
The bills aren’t formally linked, but fall into a general grouping from Republicans looking to expand gun rights and peel back regulations. The caucus named protecting second amendment rights as one of its top priorities this session.
Committee Chair Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, said the bills are part of a broader effort to strengthen second amendment rights in Michigan, including a bills allowing citizens to carry concealed firearms without permission from the state, and allowing CPL holders to enter gun-free zones.
LaFave and a handful of other Republican representatives are co-sponsoring several bills similar to legislation that languished in the 2017-18 session. Most are pending in the House Judiciary Committee or Committee on Military, Veterans and Homeland Security.
LaFave said Michigan should be a “constitutional carry” state, a term referencing the Second Amendment right to bear arms. LaFave said the U.S. Constitution and Michigan Constitution clearly state government can’t abridge an individual’s right own firearms for self-defense.
Opponents of the bills say requiring permits for concealed carry and establishing weapons-free public spaces are reasonable regulations designed to keep citizens safe.
House Bill 4029 would allow a person to carry a concealed pistol or hunting knife without a permit. Currently, concealed pistol licenses can be acquired by legal residents who are over 21, complete a safety course and pass a background check.
Michigan State Police legislative liaison Sgt. Chris Gerard said MSP has no opinion on eliminating the concealed carry permit requirement.
The bill is tie-barred with House Bill 4026, which allows license holders to carry concealed pistols in gun-free zones such as schools, churches, day care centers, bars, dormitories and stadiums.
People without a concealed pistol permit wouldn’t be able to bring firearms into gun-free zones, but LaFave said people who obtain a license should be able to carry “anywhere in the state.”
Meanwhile, House Bill 4097 would allow retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons in gun-free zones. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, and has bipartisan sponsorship, including from Lori Stone, D-Warren; John Chirkun, D-Roseville; and Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit.
House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, sponsored past legislation that would have eliminated a state mandate requiring pistols to be registered. At the time, Chatfield said there is no need for the state to keep a list of people who legally purchase pistols.
Chatfield could not be reached for comment on bills reintroduced in the GOP-controlled House. He is not listed as a sponsor on any of them.
House Bill 4021 would create a lifetime license to carry a concealed pistol. People with a lifetime license can obtain a replacement in the mail without appearing in person. It also makes county clerks responsible for notifying each other when a license holder moves.
House Bill 4434, introduced by Rep. Matt Hall, R-Emmett Township, would reduce the penalty for carrying a concealed pistol on an expired license from a felony to a civil fine, if the license expired within the a year.
Hall presented the bill as “common-sense” criminal justice reform.
“If this is the only reason you’re a felon, because you forgot to renew (the license), I don’t think that punishment is proportional to the offense,” he said.
Gerard testified against the bill on the grounds that it would make penalties for certain driving offenses more strict than a weapons violation.
“That’s kind of a drastic change,” he said. “People can’t get lazy with something that has the potential to possibly kills somebody. It’s more important to make sure that we’re understanding this is something we take very seriously.”
Gerard said citizens are notified months before their license expires, and renewing the license takes a quick visit to the county clerk’s office.
House Bill 4331 would allow Michiganders to transport or store a loaded firearm in a vehicle under certain circumstances. LaFave said the government has no business regulating how citizens transport firearms on their own property.
“Owning property and paying enormous sums of taxes to the government should come with privileges,” LaFave said.
Several Michigan second amendment rights groups expressed support for HB 4434 and HB 4431.
LaFave said state law criminalizing a “paperwork” issue stands in “complete defiance” of the constitution.
“I don’t like that I’m making it a civil infraction, but it’s better than what it is right now,” LaFave said. “I’m willing to make that compromise until we get leaders on both sides of the aisle that are willing to follow the constitutions, plural.”
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