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Michigan considers bills that would make gun permits optional, allow gun owners to carry in gun-free zones

A Glock 23 rests on the side of Lansing resident Jason Gillman as open carry advocates gather at the state capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019 to advocate for gun rights in Lansing.
October 19, 2019

Michigan residents wouldn’t need a permit to carry a concealed firearm – and could carry them into locations where they’re currently off-limits – under bills currently up for debate in a state House committee.

The main piece of the five-bill package, House Bill 4770, would eliminate current restrictions on carrying concealed weapons and storing them in vehicles, and make a CPL license unnecessary – although gun owners still could opt to get the license.

Another bill, House Bill 4471, would repeal several existing licensing requirements for gun owners and allow concealed carry in places currently considered gun-free zones, like churches, daycares and hospitals. People still couldn’t concealed carry in schools under the legislation, and privately-run businesses would still have discretion over whether to allow guns on the premises, bill sponsors said.

State Rep. Steven Johnson, R-Wayland, told the House Military, Veterans and Homeland Security Committee Tuesday that the bills wouldn’t change who can purchase a firearm in Michigan, and argued removing the need for a concealed license could lift a financial burden off of law-abiding gun owners.

“As long as I’m legally allowed to possess a firearm, to own a firearm, I can do that, but the second I put a coat on…I can commit a five-year felony unless I have this special card,” Johnson said while holding up his CPL license. “This is about protecting good law-abiding Michiganders.”

Steve Dulan, a board member of the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners, said removing the ban on concealed weapons in gun-free zones would put gun owners on a level playing field with criminals who disregard existing gun laws.

“The bad guys are already doing whatever they do – all day every day, you’re surrounded by guns everywhere you go,” Dulan told lawmakers. “The current law, only affects law-abiding citizens who are deprived to the right to self defense.”

But critics said the legislation was dangerous and could put Michigan residents at risk by allowing people to carry hidden, loaded firearms in more places without a permit or any safety training.

“Eliminating Michigan’s concealed carry requirement would lower the bar for who may carry handguns in public in Michigan and would make it easy for dangerous individuals to carry loaded handguns in crowded town centers and on city streets,” said Carmi Finn of Moms Demand Action. “Lawmakers should put the safety of their constituents first.”

In their current form, the bills are unlikely to gain much traction among Democrats. At the committee hearing, state Rep. Tyrone Carter, D-Detroit, said he’s concerned the proposal would have negative impacts for members of law enforcement attempting to respond to a crime scene.

“You walk into a place where everybody’s pulling it out with no training, none, and all of a sudden everybody’s Rambo – that is a scary thought for me,” he said.

The bills remain before the House Military, Veterans and Homeland Security Committee, and would have to pass the full House, Senate, and be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to become law.

They’re just a few of the many gun-related bills that have been introduced in the Michigan legislature this session, many of which focus on decriminalizing or reducing penalties on firearm-related offenses and rolling back regulations on gun ownership and use.