LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — A set of three bills designed to allow gun owners to carry their weapons in certain gun-free zones in Michigan has cleared a Senate committee in Lansing.
The bills would make it possible for concealed carry permit holders who take extra training to carry at schools, churches and other places currently prohibited.
In a hearing room dominated by those who oppose the bills, the testimony went on for more than an hour.
The changes involve more than just concealed carry.
Open carry would be prohibited in specified areas and only concealed carry permit holders who have extra training would be allowed to have guns in the areas.
It’s an idea that does not set well with Julie Roe, who represents the American Federation of Teachers in Michigan.
“By allowing weapons in the early childhood hood centers, K-12 schools, community colleges, universities dormitories and classrooms, the state would be increasing the likelihood of violence not deterring it,” she said. “The most comprehensive research finds that expanding the right to carry concealed firearms is associated with an increase of up to nine percent in the rate of assault.”
Don Wotruba, executive director at Michigan Associated of School Boards, also expressed concern over the legislation.
“We are concerned that this change could create more accidental incidences and tragedies that even the most well-intentioned individual that has went through training won’t be able to stop,” he said. “I would also add, similar to the last speaker, I think the additional training in this bill doesn’t really come close to preparing an individual for the instances that it happened in our school districts.”
In fact, the additional eight hours of training it would take to get the endorsement to carry in currently prohibited areas was roundly criticized by opponents.
Alternatively, pro-gun group Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners was fully supportive, saying it would bring a sense of safety to schools and other currently prohibited areas.
“The idea of having the ability to arm a well-qualified, well-trained individual in what would otherwise be a pistol-free zone is tantamount to setting up a scenario where we no longer set up sheep waiting for the wolves,” MCGRO member Bob Rudowski said.
It was a foregone conclusion that the bills would be voted out of committee along party lines, and they were by about 3-2.
Similar bills have passed both the Senate and House of Representatives previously, but were vetoed by Gov. Rick Snyder.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof thinks things could go differently this time.
“I have a good working relationship with the governor and I intend on convincing him that this is good public policy,” Meekhof said.
The bills would still have to be acted on by the full Senate, which could come as early as this week. As for the House, the jury is still out.
In the Senate committee, support or opposition for the legislation was along party lines.
Democratic Sen. Jim Ananich said he thinks having more guns in schools is the wrong approach to assuring people of their safety. He also said the issue isn’t just about schools and churches.
“Another issue (that) I think is very troubling is the fact that we’re going to allow people in bars to carry guns,” he said. “We see enough trouble and bars now with alcohol and now I had guns to the equation and I just think it flies in the face of reason.”
One of the arguments against the legislation is that the required eight hours of training to get the extended concealed carry rights is woefully short.
However, Meekhof said Michigan’s concealed carry permit holders are well-trained.
The Senate majority leader says Michigan’s concealed carry permit holders are well-trained
The next step for the bills is to go through the Senate.
There is no word of when the House may take this up because of a two week recess coming up after Thursday and a limited amount of session days left in 2017.
The bills will not go away at the end of the year, meaning the legislature could take them up early in 2018 if they don’t deal with them this fall.