GOP lawmakers in Michigan have sponsored legislation that would permit gun owners with a concealed carry license to bring their firearms into churches, schools and other gun-free zones. A state Senate committee will consider advancing the bill package in the wake of a mass shooting that claimed 26 lives at a church in Texas.
On Nov. 7, the Michigan state Senate Government Operations Committee was scheduled to debate a legislative package that would enable gun owners to conceal their weapons in gun-free zones such as casinos, day care centers, hospitals and places of worship. The GOP-majority state Senate is expected to approve the bills, The Associated Press reports.
Current Michigan law does not allow gun owners with concealed weapon permits to carry concealed firearms into gun-free zones, but a legislative loophole does allow them to open-carry in those areas. The proposed legislation would explicitly forbid gun owners from openly carrying their weapons in gun-free spaces but would allow them to carry concealed after completing eight hours of additional training.
The legislation would allow for privately owned spaces to prohibit concealed carry, but would not make the same exception for publicly owned zones. There are roughly 618,000 gun owners with concealed-carry permits living in the Wolverine State.
The Michigan Senate committee had already scheduled the legislative debate before a mass shooting horrified the nation. On Nov. 5, former U.S. airman Devin Patrick Kelley fatally gunned down 26 people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The victims ranged from the age of 17 months to 77 years, according to CNN.
Michigan Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof asserted that the massacre in Sutherland Springs provided him and his colleagues with more motivation to allow concealed-carry in gun-free zones.
"98 percent of mass shootings are completed in gun-free zones," Meekhof said, according to the Detroit Free Press. "It's a target-rich environment for people who don't abide by the law and people should have the ability to protect themselves."
The legislative package has been opposed by Democratic lawmakers and gun control advocates.
"Instead of talking about increasing the number of places where folks are carrying guns, we should be taking action on preventative measures by vast majority of people," said Democratic state Rep. Jon Hoadley of Michigan, according to WWMT.
GOP Gov. Rick Snyder had previously vetoed a similar concealed-carry proposal and has not publicly announced his position on the latest gun bills.
In December 2012, Snyder vetoed a bill that would have allowed concealed carry owners to bring their firearms into gun-free zones, voicing concern that the legislation did not allow schools to prohibit guns on their grounds, ABC News reports.
"While we must vigilantly protect the rights of law-abiding firearm owners, we also must ensure the right of designated public entities to exercise their best discretion in matters of safety and security," Snyder said at the time. "These public venues need clear legal authority to ban firearms on their premises if they see fit to do so."