Michigan media: ''CCW law looks like winner''

Weapon carriers do little to alarm officials

Sunday, December 07, 2003
By Ken Palmer

GENESEE COUNTY - Some people who checked out clean for a concealed weapon gun permit are committing crimes, sometimes with the guns they were licensed to carry.

But the number of violators has been so small - less than one-half of one percent - that even those who didn't like the law when it was passed are calling it successful.

Since Michigan's more permissive CCW (for Carrying Concealed Weapons) law took effect in July 2001, one county permit holder has gone to prison for cocaine delivery and felony firearm possession. One brandished a gun during a road-rage dispute and another was charged with domestic assault using a weapon, county officials said.

Several others have been arrested for drunken driving while carrying a firearm.

Still, said state police Lt. Diane Garrison, "My worst fears and scenarios have not played out." Garrison is commander of the Flint Township post.

"We have not had shoot-outs at intersections. I would have thought that some road-rage incidents would have turned into shootings. But all in all, it's gone pretty well."

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Garrison said at traffic stops, most CCW holders are immediately telling troopers they are carrying a weapon, as the CCW law requires.

The controversial "shall-issue" law entitles any Michigan adult to a gun permit as long as he or she hasn't been convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors and doesn't have a history of mental health problems. The permit allows them to carry the weapon anywhere except designated gun-free zones, such as schools and bars.

Local gun boards previously issued gun permits based on need. Under the "shall-issue" law, the Genesee County gun board doesn't even require applicants to appear before them unless the members have specific questions.

The board includes representatives from the state police, county prosecutor's office and sheriff's department.

Before it took effect, opponents of the law feared it would lead to excessive violence and rampant gun use.

Since July 1, 2001, eight licenses have been revoked and 20 have been suspended. In two of those suspensions, the license was reinstated.

The 28 revocations and suspensions make up about four-tenths of 1 percent of the 6,146 CCW permits issued under the new law in Genesee County as of November.

The number of permits dropped sharply in the county in the second year the law was in effect. But officials said that was probably due to an initial rush of applications and approvals in the first year.

David Leathley of Flushing Township said he applied within a few months after the new law took effect. He said he didn't get his permit until several months later, mostly because he had to wait for the required gun safety training course.

Leathley, who uses a handgun to hunt deer, said all of his deer-hunting buddies obtained CCW permits.

"Once you get it, it's a novelty - I'm going to carry it because I can," he said. "But I don't think I've carried mine in months other than for specific instances where I might be going to a place I know there may be problems."

Leathley said he hears no complaints about the new law except for some grumbling about the long wait.

It now takes about two months to get a CCW permit in Genesee County. But the wait is getting shorter because of streamlining at the state level, said Robert H. Coffman, who oversees the vital records division of the Genesee County clerk.

"We're getting fingerprint clearances quicker," he said. "The wait of two months is not going to be around anymore."

Coffman said gun board members have been pleasantly surprised that so few CCW holders are violating the law.

"I think that bodes well for the criminal background checks that we have to do," he said.

Statewide, about 80,500 permits had been issued under the new law through June 30, according to the state police Web site.

Authorities had revoked 107 permits, including 23 for felony or misdemeanor convictions. Four permit holders committed suicide.

Only about half as many people applied for gun permits from July 2002 to July 2003 as did during the first full year under the new law.

"I think we would have thought that (falloff) would occur," Coffman said. "There are only so many bodies out there. The ones who were very supportive of the law came in right away. We had people here who knew more about the law than we did on that first day."

The numbers will go up next year, when the early licensees start coming in to renew their permits, he said. Under changes that took effect July 1, gun permits are now good for five years instead of three.


QUICK FACTS - Concealed weapon permits in Genesee County:
Total applications received, as of mid-November: 6,220
Denied: 74
Revocations: 8
Suspensions: 20
Reinstated after suspension: 2
Source: Genesee County clerk's office.
Statistics are for applications and permits made under the "shall-issue'' law that took effect July 1, 2001. Michigan's "shall-issue'' concealed weapon law was changed by the Legislature, effective July 1, to loosen some provisions and streamline the application process.

Some of the key changes:
· The permit fee rose to $105 from $85. But applicants now make only one payment instead of several smaller ones.
· Permits are now good for five years instead of three years.
· Gun boards can check medical records of an applicant during the mandatory background check.
· The list of misdemeanors making someone ineligible for a gun permit has been reduced to several specific drug- and alcohol-related offenses. Previously, any misdemeanor conviction made applicants ineligible for three years.
· Retired police officers are now exempt from some training requirements.
· Certain people who need to carry guns, such as security guards and private detectives, are allowed to carry in designated weapons-free zones while on duty.
· Permit holders can now carry a gun inside restaurants that sell more food than alcohol, and in the parking lots of weapons-free zones as long they remain inside their vehicle.
· The size of the permit has been reduced to the size of a driver's license to better fit in wallets.

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