Most gun owners would be able to carry concealed weapons without a permit or training under a bill that passed the state House of Representatives on a mostly party line vote Wednesday.
The vote came after nearly an hour of passionate debate with most Republicans supporting the bills as a confirmation of the constitutional right to bear arms.
They also argued that the requirement for a permit and training for concealed carry, while not requiring the same for open carry of weapons amounted to a “coat tax.”
“The people’s Republic of Vermont, Bernie Sanders-ville has had this for years and it’s not a hotbed of gun violence,” said state Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland.
And state Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, noted that the only permit people need is the permission given in the state and federal constitutions.
“There seems to be some confusion of what our constitutional rights are. Our right to defend ourselves comes from our creator,” he said. “Today’s a good day, when you get to vote to uphold the constitution.”
But most Democrats, who were joined by seven Republicans in opposing the main piece of legislation, said the legislation was widely opposed by law enforcement and would do nothing to make communities safer.
“This is dangerous for our law enforcement and families. As a law abiding gun owner, I honor and respect the second amendment,” said state Rep. Donna Lasinski, Scio Township. “Expanding concealed carry while removing training requirement is not sensible, dangerous and it’s not good for our community.”
And Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, said he viewed the legislation through the lens of the three people who die every day in Michigan from gun violence or the 49 people who were killed at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando almost one year ago.
“The thing that is most frustrating is that we’re talking past each other much of the time. We all want ourselves to be secure and our families to be safe. I have no doubt that’s something we all agree on,” he said. “But instead, we’re talking about coat taxes and catch phrases instead of coming up with solutions to gun violence.”
The bills – the main bill passed on a vote of 59-49 - would:
• Allow anyone to carry a concealed pistol without having to get a permit or training, except for people who are prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a firearm because of certain criminal convictions.
• Remove carrying a firearm — whether concealed or not — from laws that prohibit carrying dangerous weapons.
• Repeal a provision that allows security guards to only carry a concealed weapon when they’re on duty.
The Legislature has struggled to find consensus on gun measures since Snyder vetoed a bill in 2012 that would have allowed concealed weapons to be carried in gun-free zones. Snyder vetoed the bill in the days following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in which Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 students and six staff members before killing himself on Dec. 14, 2012.
The bills – HB 4416-4419 – now move to the Senate for consideration, although Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, said there is no timeframe set to take up the bill.