Michigan House Advances Constitutional Carry Legislation
Republicans hold the majority in both the Michigan House and Senate, but Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, supports stricter gun regulation.
A package of bills that would allow unlicensed carrying of concealed firearms—sometimes called constitutional carry—and eliminate felony penalties for minor violations of state gun regulations is advancing through the Michigan Legislature.
The bill package would allow gun owners to carry concealed firearms without a concealed pistol license (CPL) and would repeal sections of state law that penalize the possession or improper transportation of a concealed weapon without a CPL.
Michigan currently requires training, a background check with fingerprints, and a $115 application and licensing fee to obtain a CPL. A measure in the bill package would remove the requirement to get a CPL but still allow individuals to obtain one for use in states that recognize out-of-state gun permits. It would also allow unlicensed concealed carry in places where open carry is allowed.
The package of bills, H.B. 4770 through H.B. 4774, sponsored by Representatives Steven Johnson (R-Wayland), John Reilly (R-Oakland Township), Michele Hoitenga (R-Manton), Matt Maddock (R-Milford), and Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Township), respectively, was introduced on October 14.
House Bills 4771 through 4774 are tie-barred to H.B. 4770, meaning they cannot take effect unless H.B. 4770 is also enacted. H.B. 4770, the constitutional carry bill, and the related measures passed out of the House Committee on Military, Veterans, and Homeland Security and were referred to the House Judiciary Committee on October 23.
Felonies for Paperwork Mistakes
State punishments for mere licensing problems are currently too severe, says Steve Dulan, a director at the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners and an adjunct professor at Cooley Law School.
“It’s patently unreasonable to have a five-year felony for what amounts to a paperwork mistake,” Dulan said. “But if you let your license expire, there’s nothing available under the current statutory scheme except a felony offense.”
The potential for felony records poses a significant risk to CPL holders, Dulan says.
“If they get a felony conviction, they lose their concealed pistol license and their right to self-defense forever,” Dulan said.
The legislation will make Michigan law consistent, says Hornberger.
“It makes no sense that you can open carry in the same place where carrying a concealed weapon will land you five years behind bars,” Hornberger states on her website. “A law-abiding gun owner has the right to defend themselves and that right shouldn’t be infringed on by government-mandated licenses and fees.”
‘Far More Law-Abiding’
Michigan had 660,920 active CPLs as of August 2019, covering approximately 7 percent of the state’s adult population, according to statistics from the Crime Prevention Research Center. A CPRC study found concealed carry permit holders are 10 times less likely to commit any crime than the general population, Dulan says.
“The folks who have concealed pistol licenses are far more law-abiding than the general population,” Dulan said.
"The people you have to worry about owning guns don’t bother showing up for gun safety class and paying licensing fees,” Dulan said. “The idea is that if you show yourself to be a trustworthy and law-abiding citizen, you shouldn’t suddenly become a felon because you forgot to renew the damn thing.”
‘Natural Right to Defend’
Sixteen states have adopted constitutional carry, meaning they do not require a permit to carry a gun, including Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota in 2019, states a CPRC report published on September 27.
People have a basic right to self-defense, says Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News.
“People have the natural right to defend themselves, their property, and others,” Burnett said. “A firearm makes that right more effective, and constitutional carry makes that right easier to exercise. One shouldn't have to ask the government's permission to effectively defend oneself.”
The bill package introduced by House Republicans has yet to be debated on the floor or in the Senate. Republicans hold the majority in both the Michigan House and Senate, but Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, supports stricter gun regulation.
“The Republicans promoting these bills that expand gun rights are promoting people's choice and well-being,” Burnett said.
Brandon Best (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Cedarville, Ohio.
Michigan state Rep. Steven Johnson (R-Wayland): http://gophouse.org/representatives/westmi/johnson/contact-rep-johnson/
Michigan state Rep. John Reilly (R-Oakland Township): http://gophouse.org/representatives/southeast/reilly/contact-rep-reilly/
Michigan state Rep. Michele Hoitenga (R-Manton): http://gophouse.org/representatives/northernmi/hoitenga/contact-rep-hoitenga/
Michigan state Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford): http://gophouse.org/representatives/southeast/maddock/contact/
Michigan state Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Township): http://gophouse.org/representatives/southeast/hornberger/contact-rep-hornberger/