By ending county gun boards and dropping fees, the Michigan senate passed a bill Tuesday that would move the state closer to true ‘shall issue’ practices.
If the bill makes its way through the state house and is signed into law, it would mandate that the state police take over responsibility for background investigations, a practice that is standard in many states.
“We’re the only state in the nation left with a gun board, so we believe that it’s time to get Michigan into the 21st century,” Sen. Mike Green (R-Mayville) told media Wednesday. “A lot of the bill is bringing records up to date and getting them online so there’s hardly any paperwork.”
Green’s bill, SB 789, would end the current practice of county gun boards responsible for granting concealed carry permits. With 83 counties in Wolverine State, there is a wide range of inconsistent requirements seen from county to county, often leaving permit holders waiting for longer than 60 days before being granted a license.
By moving the process of issuing the permit to the local county clerk’s office, and tasking the Michigan State Police with background checks, the legislation would mandate receiving either the permit or a denial within 45 days.
The bill will also require that all who are not prohibited from being issued a license shall be issued one. According to the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners, “Many of the gun boards never fully grasped the concept of shall-issue concealed carry and have continued to act with discretionary authority, in times outside the bounds of state law.”
The bill would further drop permit fees from $105 down to $90.
The state police estimate that the bill would cost taxpayers $8.4 million to implement, as they would have to detail 58 troopers to process permit applications currently handled by county gun boards and sheriffs.
In 2013, Michigan saw 136,767 permit applications. Under the SB789, the state police would receive $64 from each permit application to help offset those costs. Based on 2013 figures this would be a revenue of some $8.7 million,
Although SB789 passed the senate by a 24-13 vote, largely along party lines, there are some outspoken critics.
“At a time when tragic shootings are in the news seemingly every single day, the last thing we should be doing is taking away oversight from how our gun licenses are issued,” said Senate Democratic spokesman Bob McCann. “It’s absolutely backwards thinking, which is unfortunately par for the course for our legislature these days.”
Both the National Rifle Association and the MCRGO support SB789. MCRGO executive director Brady Schickinger estimated that with its implementation, permit applicants would see processing periods drop dramatically.
“The wait time can be reduced to two weeks or less in most counties,” Schickinger said.
Michigan’s new shall-issue legislation is the continuation of a trend in many states to overhaul concealed carry, making it more accessible and easy to exercise. Alabama revamped its gun laws in 2013 to include more gun rights, leaving behind old ‘may-issue’ requirements.
Following a recent decision by a federal court that threatens California’s long-held may issue standard, lawmakers not only in that state but also in the far-flung U.S. territory of Guam made moves towards shall-issue measures.
The Michigan bill is now under consideration by the Republican-controlled state house, but Green is already looking forward it being signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.
“We’ve been working with the state police and the governor’s staff on this bill, and we have full confidence he’s going to sign it,” Green said.