Step taken to cut penalty for expired permit

By David Eggert
Associated Press

LANSING (AP) — The Republican-led Michigan House voted last week to reduce the penalty for residents who let their concealed gun licenses expire to a fine rather than charging them with a felony.

The House also approved a measure that would require municipalities to align their gun ordinances to state law and would make Michigan only the fourth state to penalize local governments for not complying.

One of the bills would assess a $330 fine on someone who fails to renew his or her permit and is found carrying a concealed gun, as long as the violation occurs within six months of license expiring. The current penalty for carrying without a license is a five-year felony.

The $330 fine could be waived if the individual renewed within 60 days of the violation.

“A person who has underwent firearms training, has exercised their constitutional rights responsibly and has every intention of following the rules doesn’t deserve to face felony charges merely for forgetting about the expiration date on their CPL,” the sponsor, Republican Rep. Shane Hernandez of Port Huron, said in a statement.

Democratic Rep. David LaGrand of Grand Rapids, who voted for the bill that was approved 82-26, urged legislators to also extend the same relief to motorists with an expired driver’s license. That offense is a misdemeanor punishable by 90 days in jail and a $100 fine.

Another bill approved last Wednesday would force local governments to align their gun ordinances with state law within 60 days of the legislation taking effect.

A 1990 “pre-emption” law prevents municipalities from regulating guns, but gun rights advocates say there are still at least 26 ordinances with stricter rules than that the state. Many prohibit firearms in public parks and cemeteries.

The legislation, which passed 69-39 with many Democrats in opposition, would let residents sue to enforce the pre-emption law or file a complaint with Michigan’s attorney general.

A judge would have to order the municipality to stop enforcing the ordinance and to amend or repeal it.

The judge also would force the local government to pay damages, costs and attorney fees to those challenging their rules.

According to the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency, 43 states have broad pre-emption laws.

The bill would make Michigan the fourth state with a “super pre-emption” law — one that penalizes local governments for not complying.

Before voting, lawmakers removed a provision that would have required local officials to pay up to a $2,500 fine for knowingly and willfully enacting or enforcing an illegal gun ordinance.

The sponsor, Republican Rep. Gary Howell of North Branch, said his legislation would “help protect law-abiding gun owners from having to wrongfully pay out of pocket in court to defend their basic American rights.”

Both bills were sent to the GOP-controlled Senate for consideration next.