Michigan streamlines concealed pistol licensing process

© Baz Ratner
The process of applying for a concealed carry license in Michigan has been transferred from the county to state level. Advocates say this will cut red tape, but critics worry the change could make it easier for potentially dangerous people to obtain guns.

Starting Tuesday, county-level gun boards will no longer have the power to issue, deny, revoke, or suspend concealed pistol licenses (CPL) in Michigan. The new law requires each county’s clerk to initiate the procedure and approve or deny each gun permit application based on centralized background checks conducted by the state. They will not have the arbitrary power the county boards had to individually evaluate applicants, which will expedite the process, since the county boards would only meet once a month.

This essentially moves all of the authority to a state board of 13 people based in Michigan’s capital, Lansing, that are charged with conducting the screening. Michigan State Police are required to verify that applicants should not be disqualified from holding the permit based on mental illness, criminal history, age, or other factors.

“The benefit is it will be much more streamlined for people who are applying for concealed pistol licenses,” said Michigan State Police First Lieutenant Michael Dawson, who sat on the board for two years, according to WBST.

The measure is the latest step toward making Michigan a “shall-issue” state, in which a permit can’t be denied to applicants if they take a gun safety course, have no felony convictions, and meet other requirements, such as not being the subject of a legal protection order. The law eliminates the practice of gun boards interviewing applicants in person to determine if they might pose a safety risk even if they haven’t broken a law.

Republican State Senator Mike Green, who played a critical role in the legislation, said this brings Michigan up to speed with the rest of the country, since most states have a shall-issue policy.

“Michigan was the only state that had gun boards,” said Green’s Legislative Director, Nick Buggia, according to WSBT. “We’re just trying to promote people’s rights to defend themselves and modernize the process a little bit.”

However, gun control advocates say that abolishing the boards takes away the power of communities to identify potential dangerous individuals that wouldn’t raise any red flags in background checks.

READ MORE: Kansas to allow concealed carry without permit or training

“Local law enforcement often knows persons who are not safe to have a CPL,” said Jerry Walden of Physicians for the Prevention of Gun Violence when testifying against the change in February, according to the Guardian. “Examples of those denied licenses include juveniles with serious records, domestic abusers with misdemeanors or no felonies because their victim would not go to court, serious alcoholics and drug abusers – who will all be free to obtain a CPL under this new law.”

Of the 2,081 applicants who were denied CPLs in the 2013-14 fiscal year, 349 were denied because a gun board thought that granting them such a permit could post a safety risk to the community.