Michigan legislation would allow concealed guns in schools, churches

The Michigan  State Capitol Building in Lansing.
The Michigan State Capitol Building in Lansing.

Credit: Bill Pugliano

Credit: Bill Pugliano

A Michigan Senate committee approved bills Tuesday that will allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons in several gun-free zones, the Detroit Free Press reported.

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The bill would allow people to carry guns at schools, churches, day care centers, stadiums and bars.

The legislation comes on the heels of a mass shooting at a south Texas church Sunday that left 26 people dead and 20 more injured. That occurred a month after a mass shooting at an outdoor concert outside Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said the mass shootings make him more certain that now is the time to take up the gun legislation, the Free Press reported.

“Some have said it’s insensitive to bring up these issues now, but I feel quite the opposite, the Republican said. “The recent events will allow us to look at how we can deter those who want to do harm. And responsible, well-trained, licensed concealed-pistol holders can be one of those deterrents.”

The bills taken up in the Senate Government Operations Committee passed on a party-line vote with Republicans supporting the three-bill package and Democrats opposing it. The bills also would close the open-carry loophole, effectively barring gun owners from openly carrying their weapons in gun-free zones.

"That’s the part that causes the schools to shut down and lose a day of educational experience for students, and that’s problematic," Meekhof said.

Gun-free zones should be called “mass murderer empowerment zones,” said Steve Dulan, spokesman for the gun owners group.

But far more people were at the committee hearing to speak out against the bill, including school groups and Moms Demand Action, which has been fighting for more gun controls.

“Tragedies are going to happen. But we're concerned this change could create more accidental incidents and the additional training doesn’t come close to training an individual for high-intensity situations,” said Don Wotruba, executive director of the Michigan Association of School Boards. “Unless you’re trained for a military or police perspective, you're not well-trained.”

The new legislation would allow schools to prohibit students, both minors and adults, from carrying concealed weapons in schools. The bill also is expected to be amended on the Senate floor, perhaps as soon as Wednesday, to allow schools to prohibit employees from carrying concealed weapons in schools.

The legislation also would allow private businesses, such as bars, to declare themselves gun-free zones.

"We’re not going to pre-empt a private property owner's right to post for a weapon-free zone," said Meekhof's spokeswoman, Amber McCann.

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