LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Legislation headed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's desk would require county clerks to keep processing concealed pistol licenses during state-declared or locally declared emergencies.
The Republican-sponsored bill, a response to what happened in 2020 after the coronavirus pandemic struck and prompted government shutdowns, was approved Thursday by the House on a largely party-line 58-43 vote
The sponsor, Sen. Lana Theis of Brighton, said Second Amendment rights cannot be infringed even in times of emergency. She said clerks refused or delayed issuing or renewing concealed handgun permits due to COVID-19.
"People must be able to defend their life and property, especially during an emergency when having a concealed weapon may be even more necessary," Theis said in a statement.
Many Democrats opposed the measure, which could be vetoed.
"Senate Bill 11 is not about the Second Amendment. Rather, it is a bill challenging our public health authorities' ability to make quick decisions and issue public health directives based on the science and information they have had available at the time," Rep. Julie Rogers of Kalamazoo said. "There may be another public health emergency that we don't know today that warrants temporarily pausing activities that contribute to the spread of disease."
Also Thursday, the Republican-controlled House sent the Republican-led Senate a bill that would reduce the penalty for not renewing a concealed pistol license from a felony to a civil fine. Some Democrats supported the measure.
Also going to the Senate are bills — passed mostly along party lines — that would prevent the governor and state and local health officials from closing gun and ammunition stores and shooting ranges during emergencies. The governor would be barred from using emergency powers to order the confiscation of firearms.
The sponsor, Republican Rep. Andrew Fink of Hillsdale, said constitutional gun rights "are routinely disparaged as less important than our other civil rights," saying no one thought that coronavirus orders should restrict jury trials or speak out against the president or governor.
"Disfavoring some constitutional rights and favoring others is a dangerous game which we should refuse to play," he said.
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