Mich. Gov. To Consider Concealed Pistols Bill

fromMR

Rick Snyder faces a stark choice on whether to allow concealed pistols in schools. In the closing hours of its lame duck session — and the day before the Sandy Hook killing spree — Michigan's legislature approved a bill that would allow concealed pistols in places where they are currently banned. The bill has yet to be formally presented to the governor, but once it is, he has 14 days to decide what he will do.

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The governor of Michigan is facing a stark choice. Less than 24 hours before the shootings in Connecticut last week, Michigan lawmakers approved a bill that would allow concealed pistols in places they're currently banned, including public schools. Rick Pluta of Michigan Public Radio reports.

RICK PLUTA, BYLINE: Right now, schools, daycare centers and churches are among the places that can post as no carry zones under Michigan's concealed pistol law. The bill on its way to Governor Rick Snyder would change that. People who agree to additional training and range practice would be able to get what's called a super-carry concealed pistol license.

STATE SENATOR MIKE GREEN: When you're out and about, there's a chance of getting hurt and you want to be able to protect yourself.

PLUTA: Republican state Senator Mike Green says it never made sense to him that people are allowed to carry concealed pistols for self-protection in some places, but not in others.

GREEN: There's a number of people that believe that we have the right to protect ourself with guns and with whatever other things we need to do that with in our home, and many of them feel outside of our home.

PLUTA: Those are Green's comments before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. His office has not returned phone messages since.

The current standards can be confusing. Concealed weapons are banned in schools. But, in Michigan right now, adults can walk into a school with a gun openly slung over a shoulder, or in a holster, as long as it's outside their clothing. Very few people do, but it is allowed. Of course, a student who did that would be expelled.

Most states don't allow guns on school property, though New Hampshire, Oregon and Utah do allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry guns in schools. Mark Glaze of Mayors Against Illegal Guns recently visited Michigan's capitol to argue against some of the proposed changes to gun laws. He says the same thing is being pushed in other states.

MARK GLAZE: On the national picture, it's a project of the NRA and the rest of the gun lobby to continually expand the number of people who can carry, the places where they can carry until the point at which there really are no limits.

PLUTA: Mayors Against Illegal Guns is the group formed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to advocate for more gun control measures. The legislature's action has the state abuzz about just what the governor should do. If he signs the bill, concealed weapons in schools are legal. If he vetoes it, schools remain open carry areas, although principals and administrators still have final say about who is allowed in a school building.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)

PLUTA: Here at Post Oak Elementary School in Lansing, children are waiting to board busses or be picked up by grownups. Sandy Peasley is here for her grandson, a third-grader. She wants no guns in schools, concealed or otherwise.

SANDY PEASLEY: What kind of message does that send to your children? If you get expelled from school for bringing a weapon to school, why would an adult be allowed to carry guns in school?

PLUTA: Jesse Jones, whose daughter also attends the school, says he wouldn't mind seeing one staff person here with a concealed gun permit.

JESSE JONES: They shouldn't allow just anybody into the schools with guns, but it might be nice to have maybe like one person who's qualified and everything to handle a gun walking, patrolling around the schools.

PLUTA: When he's asked about guns in schools, Governor Rick Snyder is non-committal. Speaking here on Detroit Public Television after the shootings, he said they will play into his decision.

GOVERNOR RICK SNYDER: You can't have it not impact you and my thoughts and prayers go with everyone in Connecticut. I know that we all share that view.

PLUTA: The governor's office has been flooded with more than 6,000 phone calls, emails and Web messages on the subject. And the margin is almost five to one urging him to veto the legislation and keep concealed guns out of the state's public schools.

For NPR News, I'm Rick Pluta in Lansing, Michigan.

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