Keeping the grass roots growing!!
LAPEER — The number of Lapeer County residents getting licensed to carry a conceal pistol continues rising dramatically, even as a package of bills has begun winding its way through state legislature that would altogether eliminate the need for such permits.
The number of new concealed pistol licenses (CPL) issued doubled from 2014-15 to 2015-16, increasing from 644 to 1,232 over the one-year span, according to county records.
Through the end of May, another 464 new CPL permits have been issued in the county.
That means a total of Proposed legislation would eliminate permits to obtain a concealed pistol license.
CPLs, according to Michigan State Police records.
Experts say they expect numbers to skyrocket if a new package of bills that eliminates the CPL requirements becomes law.
“I think it will definitely increase the number of people interested in carrying,” said R.C. Hellebuyck, owner, Hellebuyck’s Trading Post in Lapeer Township. The business is part gun shop/part antique store.
“We oppose this legislation because it just will mean more guns, in more places, by more people that potentially have not been trained,” Dr. Linda Brundage, executive director, Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, told The County Press.
As an open carry state, licensed gun owners in Michigan can carry a firearm in public so long as it is not concealed nor in a place prohibited by state law, such as a court, church, or hospital.
Those who wish to legally carry concealed guns must have a CPL.
Per current law, a state-issued CPL requires eight hours of gun safety training on top of the associated costs.
After passing the CPL class, a candidate must then apply at the county clerk’s office. They must have photo identification and be at least 21 years old and be a citizen of the United States or a lawfully-admitted alien, and be a legal resident of Michigan for at least six months immediately prior to applying, though there are emergency situations in which that requirement can be waived.
A fee of $100 is due at the time of application, and another fee of $15 for fingerprinting is due. That is also done at the county complex. After the application and fingerprinting process is complete, applicants receive either a permit or a denial by mail within 45 days.
But all that could go out the door with the new bills approved by a house committee last week that essentially would put an end to the CPL in Michigan, should they be signed into law.
The bills, House Bills 4416 to 4419, still have a long way to go through the entire House of Representatives and Senate. According to a legislative analysis of the bills by the non-partisan House Fiscal Agency, they would:
Allow anyone to carry a concealed pistol without having to obtain a permit or participate in training (does not apply to people prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a firearm based on criminal record).
Remove firearms from laws that prohibit carrying dangerous weapons.
Remove a provision that allows security guards to carry concealed weapons only when on duty
Lapeer County Sheriff Scott McKenna said he favors more people carrying concealed weapons, especially “if you have somebody who is out in the community to do something wrong…I like the idea of them not knowing who has that gun.”
But Brundage said her organization will fight passage of what she calls a “ridiculous” package of bills.
Brundage said the minimal amount of training required to obtain a CPL is considered critical by the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.
“Guns are made to kill. Period,” she said. “And if you’re going to use one, you ought to have at least a modicum of training.”
The National Rifle Association – Institute for Legislative Action takes a different view.
According to a statement on its website, the proposed bills “recognize an individual’s unconditional right to keep and bear arms for self-defense in the manner he or she chooses.”
“Self-defense situations are difficult, if not impossible, to anticipate. Accordingly, a law-abiding adult’s right to defend himself or herself in such situations should not be conditioned by government-mandated time delays and taxes,” the organization states. “Twelve states currently have laws which allow law-abiding individuals to possess a concealed firearm for self-defense without a permit.”
Rep. Gary Howell, R-Deerfield, said he has yet to take a position on the bills, pending a more thorough review.
In general, however, he said it seems there’s a disconnect between Michigan’s open carry and concealed pistol laws.
“You and I can walk around town with a pistol on our belt without restriction,” Howell said. “But we have training requirements and licensing requirements to do the same exact thing if it’s inside your suit jacket. I think that’s created a lot of the consternation here.”
Those who said they support people carrying more concealed weapons are quick to point out they aren’t advocating for reckless gun ownership or use.
McKenna said law enforcement would likely take on more of a role in gun-related education and training should elimination of CPLs become law.
Hellebuyck said he agreed with the importance of education and training in gun ownership, pointing out the need to treat guns as tools instead of toys.
“I’m all for having some sort of training, for crying out loud,” said Hellebuyck.
Hellebuyck’s Trading Post just celebrated its five-year anniversary and said business is better than ever.
Handgun sales are brisk, he said, due in part to an endless news cycle that often makes people feel the need to seek ways to protect themselves.
“There’s a lot of crazy people,” Hellebuyck said. “There’s always been a lot of crazy people…we’re just hearing about it more.”
There’s also been a huge increase in the number of women interested in buying guns.
“I tell people all the time I wouldn’t want to be a rapist in Lapeer County, because there’s a lot of women packing,” Hellebuyck said. “And that’s a good thing.”
Hellebuyck said he thinks “it’s selfish for people to expect the police to protect them, especially in a rural area.”
“I think you have an obligation to protect yourself and your family and if you’re going to rely on the police to do it, that’s not a very realistic view,” Hellebuyck said. “I always go back to the old saying ‘When seconds count, police are minutes away.’”
But Brundage said such statements by those who make money from selling guns are nothing more than selling techniques.
“(They say) ‘Be afraid. Be afraid. There are people out there carrying concealed so be afraid. You better buy a gun,’” Brundage said.
“It’s that kind of escalation of fear that the gun lobby wants us all to feel.”