Saturday, March 24, 2012

Michigan Republicans Want Guns in Churches and Schools

I want to thank Ken Beeson, a member of the Morning Sun Editorial Board for bringing this to my attention.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 John Barnes

Michigan’s 83 county gun boards would be eliminated under the most sweeping rewrite in a decade proposed for Michigan’s concealed weapons law.

The legislation, to be outlined Thursday at a Senate Committee, includes a score of changes. Among them:

Allow concealed pistols in so-called “gun-free” zones -- such as churches, schools and sports stadiums -- for those who receive extra training.

Shift permit approvals to county sheriffs from gun boards in place since 1927.

Cut licensing delays, remove financial obstacles to appealing denials, and make it easier to renew.

Measures aimed at improving mandatory reports on permit holders’ misbehavior are also in development, an outgrowth of an MLive Media Group investigation that found the reports could not be trusted.

But the bulk of the measures are aimed at streamlining the permit process, make it less subject to local restrictions, and expand where concealed handguns can be carried, according to documents obtained by MLive.

State Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville, is chief sponsor of the new legislation. Green also was chief sponsor a decade ago of the “shall issue” overhaul that made it easier for applicants to obtain concealed permits effective July 1, 2001.

Licenses, selectively approved beforehand by many gun boards, soared. The first year 53,000 permits were approved. As of this month, there are 305,108 active permits.

The proposed measures are a wide-ranging substitute for a bill introduced a year ago that saw little traction. That proposal to shift permitting to the Secretary of State was abandoned; so was a follow-up bid to allow permit seekers to apply in any county, to avoid those considered slow or restrictive. That met resistance from prosecutors, clerks and other county groups.

Documents detailing the new measures say shifting approvals to sheriffs makes sense because the departments already perform backgrounds checks. A decision would have to be made 45 days from application, otherwise clerks must issue temporary permits.

Now, the 45-day clock does not start ticking until after background and fingerprint checks are done and sent to the gun board. There is no provision for a temporary permit when it runs longer.

The substitute bill also aims to reinvigorate the effort to allow permit holders to carry a concealed handgun in gun-free zones.

New applicants who complete 17 hours of training involving firing 192 rounds could carry concealed weapons in the zones. That’s more than the eight hours and 30 rounds now required for a permit. The 30 rounds also would increase to 98 rounds for basic permit.

Those who already have permits would have to complete an additional nine hours of training - much of it involving personal protection outside the home - and 94 rounds on the firing range to carry a concealed handgun in the pistol-free zones.

Additional measures in the bill are aimed at ensuring mandatory annual reports on permit holders who run afoul of the law are more accurate.

The MLive investigation last summer found many prosecutors and clerks refused to do them. Those that did frequently made mistakes,  under-reporting convictions and revocations for gun- and non-gun crimes.

New measures would make it clearer how many license holders are charged and permits suspended – as well as force counties to follow-up with mandatory revocations.

The measures are to be detailed at 9 a.m. Thursday in the Senate's Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee.

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