DETROIT (CBS Detroit) Detroit's police chief, mayor and eight Southeast Michigan mayors came out Tuesday in strong opposition to HB 5225, a bill that would eliminate the state background check for private-party handgun sales.
Proponents of the bill say it eliminates an unnecessary bureaucratic step since gun buyers would still have to go through the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
But many in law enforcement believe the state safeguard is necessary, especially since Michigan State Police say private party sales comprise 48 percent of all handgun sales in Michigan.
"This bill would make it easier for convicted criminals and persons with severe mental illness to obtain deadly weapons, and make it more difficult for our police officers to protect themselves and our communities," the mayors wrote in a form letter to state Senate leaders and Gov. Rick Snyder. See the letter HERE.
HB 5225 has already passed the state House of Representatives, and it cleared a Senate committee vote earlier this month. A full Senate vote could come as early as next week.
The mayors who signed the opposition letter include Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje; Dearborn Mayor John B. O'Reilly, Jr.; Detroit Mayor Dave Bing; Flint Mayor Dayne Walling; Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski; Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell; Southfield Mayor Brenda L. Lawrence; and Ypsilanti Mayor Paul T. Schreiber.
Under current state law, a resident must pass a background check and basic firearms training exam to obtain a permit to purchase a handgun. This system blocks gun sales to convicted felons, domestic abusers, the severely mentally ill and others who are barred by law from purchasing guns. Experts said HB 5225 would abolish this purchase permit system, eliminating a vital tool to prevent criminals from obtaining guns from private sellers.
While licensed firearms dealers would continue to conduct background checks, as required by federal law, private sellers – who routinely appear at gun shows and post advertisements for guns on websites – are not bound by this requirement.
"This bill dismantles Michigan's carefully crafted background check system and eliminates a vital law enforcement tool," said Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee in a press release. "Background checks are a critical component in keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and protecting our police officers and our communities. Unfortunately, this dangerous bill would put more of our brave men and women in harm's way."
Michigan State Police Director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue agreed, saying, "Without this safeguard, there is no way to prevent convicted felons, the mentally incapacitated and other dangerous individuals from purchasing handguns in our state. This legislation also eliminates the state's pistol registry, which is a critical crime solving tool that was utilized more than 21,000 times by law enforcement last year."
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said it could endanger law enforcement, adding, "During my administration, four Detroit police officers were shot by perpetrators using a shotgun that was legally sold without a background check."
Even gun proponents support the bill, according to a recent survey by Republican pollster Frank Luntz that found 74 percent of members of the National Rifle Association agree that all gun sales should be subject to a background check.
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