GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In the month since Michigan changed the way concealed pistol licenses are issued, the number of CPL applications has increased and, on at least one occasion, a mistake led to a license being issued to someone with a criminal record.
The changes went into effect on Dec. 1, 2015. Under a new law, the county gun boards that previously approved CPLs were eliminated. Their responsibilities were shifted to county clerks, who now accept applications, and Michigan State Police, which conducts background checks and approves or denies applications.
The changes aim to speed up the process of getting a CPL, but some say they get rid of an important check by local law enforcement.
“There are holes in the system. It is not perfect and I am quite concerned about it,” Kent County Clerk Mary Hollinrake said. “Whether various people are being facetious or not, but I have heard people say, ‘I may not have been approved by the board. I think I can get approved now. There is no local scrutiny now.'”
Other county clerks in West Michigan told 24 Hour News 8 they have heard similar sentiments echoed by their applicants.
On Dec. 8, MSP approved an applicant Kent County even though he had an assault charge on his record that should have disqualified him. Hollinrake’s office caught the error before the CPL made it into the man’s hands.
“We had to stop that. Because of our experience with that applicant and the gun board, we knew the history, so we notified the Michigan State Police of a mess of in their system,” Hollinrake said.
MSP has acknowledged the mistake.
“Unfortunately, it was human error in this case. The technician that reviewed it simply misread the application,” MSP spokesperson Shanon Banner said.
When asked how someone could have misread the application, Banner replied, “I don’t know exactly how they managed to do it. I think in this case it was a couple pages long. One of the convictions was at the bottom of the page and it simply got missed.”
That wasn’t comforting to Hollinrake.
“I have no idea how many times this will happen throughout the state,” she said.
“You can’t fully eliminate human error, unfortunately, but we can put things in place to make sure we are keeping full attention and we will continue to do that. Anything we can do to ensure this doesn’t happen again, we will do,” Banner said.
Since the elimination of the gun boards, the number of CPL applications has increased in counties across West Michigan. Kalamazoo County saw the highest number ever with 327 in December. Ottawa and Kent counties each saw their figures jump to more than 500 when they see an average of 300 a month.
MSP is processing about 600 applications per day.
The elimination of the gun boards isn’t the only factor at play in the increase. Recent mass shootings and the president’s plan for executive actions enforcing gun control are also having an effect on those numbers.