March 29, 2012/Mlive.com
By John Barnes
Hospitals, colleges, schools and other groups are lining up to oppose legislation that would allow concealed handguns on their premises.
Support from gun rights groups was strong, with little opposition, when an overhaul of Michigan's concealed weapons law was unveiled at a Senate committee and easily passed last week. It now is before the full Senate.
Representatives of several organizations said the new push to relax zones where concealed guns are forbidden caught them by surprise.
“We can’t afford to stand on the sidelines on this issue and let out our ability to maintain gun-free campuses be trampled on by the gun lobby,” said Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, which represents the state’s 15 public universities.
Concealed handguns were banned a decade ago in “pistol-free zones” – including churches, bars, sports and entertainment stadiums and other places.
An effort to abolish the zones was introduced more than a year ago, but saw little traction. The latest version is included in a separate bill that includes a score of changes to the state’s concealed weapon law.
“I don’t think a lot of people knew this was coming,” said Scott Ellis, executive director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association. “It is an issue to us with people bringing a concealed weapon into a licensed alcohol establishment.”
While permit holders cannot legally consume alcohol while carrying their weapon, Ellis said the matter raises all sorts of questions his organization plans to discuss.
The proposal by state Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville, is part of a bill that was rewritten to update Michigan’s decade-old “shall issue” licensing law. That law, also sponsored by Green and effective July 2001, made it easier for the public to obtain concealed handgun permits. More than 300,000 are in effect today.
The reforms would allow permit holders who undergo an extra nine hours of training to carry hidden guns in no-concealed zones. It also would eliminate the state’s 83 county gun boards, shift approvals to sheriffs, and provide penalties for approvals that take too long or denials that are overturned.
PROPOSED CHANGES TO MIGHIGAN’S CONCEALED HANDGUN LAW
The proposed overhaul of Michigan’s concealed weapons law would:
• Establish a “shall issue” exemption allowing highly trained permit holders to carry guns in pistol-free zones. An extra nine hours of training and 162 more rounds fired at the range would be required beyond current basic requirements.
• Require firing-range time for basic applicants include 98 rounds, as opposed to 30 now.
• Eliminate county gun boards, now comprised of state police, sheriffs, clerks and prosecutors or firearms instructors.
• Shift permit approvals to sheriffs, whose departments already handle background checks. County clerks would still process applications.
• Require licenses be approved within 45 days or a temporary license must be issued.
• Counties could no longer charge extra money beyond the $105 application fee for taking photos, laminating, and other add-ons.
The matter is not expected to be taken up by the full Senate until after the two-week break that begins Friday.
Representatives for public schools and hospitals say they will be ready.
“We knew this had been out there for about a year and then, ‘Boom!’” said Donald Wotruba, deputy director at Michigan Association of School Boards.
“We’ll alert out school board members across the state to call their lawmakers to oppose it.”
Supporters argue a quirk of state law already allow guns to be openly carried, but not concealed, in schools and other places. They also argue a responsible adult with a concealed gun could avert school shootings seen elsewhere.
But Wotruba worries more about the possibility a teachers’ or another adults’ weapon could fall into the wrong hands, stolen from a purse or grabbed by a student while breaking up a hallway scuffle.
The Michigan Health and Hospital Association also opposes the effort.
“We do have adequate security on premises,” said Chris Mitchell, director of government relations for the group, which represents about 100 hospitals in the state.
“We think adding additional weapons to that environment is not conducive to promoting health and wellness,” Mitchell said, adding he expects groups to launch more opposition in the House should the bill it make it through the Senate.
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