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Michigan Concealed-Carry Bill Draws Fire

Can concealed-carry laws prevent a mass shooting? Credit: DodgertonSkillhause/Morguefile
Can concealed-carry laws prevent a mass shooting? Credit: DodgertonSkillhause/Morguefile

October 14, 2015

LANSING, Mich. - There was a packed house at a hearing Tuesday on a controversial gun bill. Senate Bill 442, introduced by Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville, would prohibit open carry in schools, churches, hospitals and sports arenas, but allow concealed carry for licensed holders. A gap in the law currently permits open carry at those locations.

The Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network is among groups opposed to the bill, and director Randy Block said he believes it's a bait and switch.

"Sen. Green seems to think that he can remove the most egregious loophole by saying you can't open carry into a church or a classroom," Block said, "but you then come in the back door with a concealed weapon. So it's outrageous."

SB 442 is said to be a compromise between gun-rights groups and schools worried about mass shootings. Some supporters claim gun-free areas can actually be more likely to be the target of a mass shooting, and reduce the ability of people to defend themselves.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill 4-1.

Whether it's concealed or open carry, said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, there is no solid evidence that having a gun leads to a better outcome in a situation such as a mass shooting. He said firearms are more likely used in personal assaults.

"Some sort of confrontation, some conflict or road rage - a variety of kind of scenarios can occur," he said, "and these are far more common events than the things we conjure up in our minds when we think, 'OK, what can we do to protect ourselves from gun violence? We're worried about the mass shooting and other kinds of scenarios.' "

Webster said many people who have used a gun typically do not report self defense as the reason.

"More commonly than not, they actually describe unlawful or hostile uses of guns rather than legitimate, lawful scenarios of protecting themselves," he said. "So the proponents of this bill have created a reality that just doesn't line up with the facts."

Linda Brundage, executive director of the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, said she's troubled that SB 442 is being fast-tracked, because other gun control bills - House Bills 4261 and 4590 - are stalled.

"One I know has been in Judiciary for about two and a half years and we can't move those out for a hearing," she said, "and the people deserve a hearing. We deserve to be heard."

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have plans for gun-control reforms that would strengthen the background-check system and tighten regulations on illegal gun purchases.

The text of SB 442 is online at legislature.mi.gov.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI