LANSING, Michigan — The Senate on Tuesday again voted to overhaul how concealed gun licenses are issued in Michigan, removing a provision related to personal protection orders that led Gov. Rick Snyder to veto similar legislation nearly three weeks ago.
The bills, approved 28-9 by the Republican-led chamber and sent to the House mostly along party lines, would speed up the issuance and renewal of concealed carry permits and eliminate county licensing boards. Permitting responsibilities would be transferred to county clerks and the state police effective Oct. 1.
The state police would have the responsibility for verifying whether an applicant is eligible.
Under the bills, an initial license would have to be issued or disqualified within 45 days of fingerprints being taken instead of within 45 days of a licensing board getting a fingerprint analysis from the state police. A license lasts for four to five years.
A renewal — approximately 112,000 are submitted a year — would have to be issued or denied within 30 days instead of the current 60-day deadline.
Michigan is a "shall-issue" state, which means a gun board has to issue a permit as long as an applicant has taken a gun safety course, has no felony conviction and meets other requirements such as not being subject to a protection order.
The new legislation would remove the ability to deny a license to someone not explicitly disqualified by law but who still might pose a safety risk, leading gun control advocates to warn that an important safeguard would be taken away.
"While we support efforts to make the licensing process more efficient, changes cannot come at the cost of public safety," said Linda Brundage, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. The group said there should be discretion to account for people with multiple arrests like George Zimmerman, the volunteer neighborhood watchman who was acquitted of killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida.
But the legislation's sponsor, Sen. Mike Green of Mayville, said gun boards very rarely use such discretion and when they have, the denials can be easily challenged in court.
"Everything that's in that bill has been scrutinized by the state police, and they're very comfortable with what we did," he said. "They want the law to be so restrictive that if you go along with everything in the law, you have to get" the license.
The bills do not include a provision that would let some people who have personal protection orders against them still obtain concealed weapon licenses if the orders do not contain gun restrictions. Snyder, a Republican, cited the provision and his concerns about domestic violence victims when vetoing the bills on Jan. 15 — a move the National Rifle Association and others said was based on "misinformation."
The bills also would reduce the application fee from $105 to $100 and require the state police to create a system for renewing online or by mail by October 2018.
The bills are the first to clear either legislative chamber in the new two-year session.
The NRA said the legislation would create a "more efficient, expedient and uniform" licensing process and shorten delays. It said having an online application would fix the "significant inconvenience" faced by people who may have to take time off work to apply in person.
Sen. Steve Bieda, a Warren Democrat, said he voted against the measures because he favors more control at the local level and is not aware of any problems with the existing licensing process.
"If it's not broken, don't fix it," he said. "We're already a shall-issue (state). What does this really do to improve the system?"
Green's legislation to eliminate county gun boards has twice been vetoed by Snyder. Two years ago, he objected because it would have allowed concealed weapons in churches, schools and daycare centers — days after a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.
Senate Bills 34-35: http://1.usa.gov/1Dv7zke
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