[Congressional Record Volume 146, Number 155 (Friday, December 15, 2000)]
[Senate]
[Page S11895]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                ``SHALL ISSUE'' LEGISLATION IN MICHIGAN

  Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, late Wednesday night, the Michigan 
Legislature passed a bill that, if signed, will have a negative impact 
on public safety in my home state. The legislature passed the ``shall 
issue'' bill which would require that local licensing authorities 
``shall'' or must issue a concealed handgun license to a person who 
passes a background check and a safety course. Notably, the legislature 
waited until after the election to pass the legislation.
  The current law in our state now gives local gun boards discretion to 
issue concealed gun licenses where a need is shown. Current law allows 
local gun boards--each made up of a local sheriff, a county prosecutor 
and a designee of the State police--to determine who should be allowed 
to carry a concealed handgun. The legislation before the state 
legislature would take discretion away from local law enforcement and 
allow virtually any applicant to carry a concealed handgun.
  In May of 1999, when the State Legislature last took up this bill, a 
coalition of law enforcement groups led the fight against it. Law 
enforcement soundly rejects the proliferation of concealed weapons in 
our communities and have warned that this legislation will move 
Michigan in a dangerous direction.
  The Michigan Law Enforcement Coalition issued the following statement 
about the bill:

       Current law authorizes a local gun board made up of local 
     law enforcement officials to issue CCW [Carry Concealed 
     Weapons] licenses to those citizens who show a demonstrated 
     need to carry a concealed weapon. Legislation that would 
     shift the burden of proof, requiring the board to issue a 
     permit unless it can state a reason, is a state-mandated 
     ``shall issue'' bill and eliminates local control.
       The Michigan Law Enforcement Coalition opposes any 
     legislation which strips local gun boards of their discretion 
     and shifts the burden of proof from the applicant to the gun 
     board.

  The Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police issued this statement:

       This bill not only puts citizens at risk but will also 
     effect law enforcement officers trying to do a difficult and 
     dangerous job. Officers, already concerned due to the 
     proliferation of handguns, would have even more apprehension 
     knowing that the odds of confronting a concealed weapon have 
     been multiplied. The presence of a gun can make any situation 
     more dangerous. A gun can turn routine arguments into 
     episodes of serious injury or death. During stressful times 
     reasonable people do unreasonable things. The shouting match 
     over a parking space or the fist fight at a sporting event 
     can escalate into a shoot-out when guns are more accessible. 
     Already nearly one-third of all murders committed are the 
     result of an argument according to the FBI's Uniform Crime 
     Report.
       The Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police urges the 
     Michigan Legislature to refrain from allowing the 
     proliferation of concealed weapons without adequate 
     safeguards by county licensing authorities. An armed society 
     is a frightened and dangerous society.

  Law enforcement groups were joined in their opposition to this bill 
by religious leaders, child advocates, and community leaders. Groups 
such as the Michigan Catholic Conference, Michigan PTA, Michigan 
Municipal League, Michigan's Children, Michigan Library Association, 
Michigan Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals, 
Michigan Association of Nonpublic Schools-Parent Network, Michigan 
Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, Michigan Association of Theatre 
Owners, and National Conference for Community and Justice are unified 
against the ``shall issue'' standard.
  Mr. President, I am disappointed that the Michigan Legislature passed 
this bill. I believe ``shall issue'' is wrong for Michigan and I have 
urged the Governor to veto the bill. I ask unanimous consent to have 
printed in the Record the letter I sent to the Governor.
  There being no objection, the letter was ordered to be printed in the 
Record, as follows:

                                                December 13, 2000.
     Hon. John Engler,
     Governor of the State of Michigan,
     Lansing, MI.
       Dear Governor Engler: I am writing to urge you to veto the 
     ``shall issue'' legislation which recently passed the 
     Michigan Legislature.
       The ``shall issue'' legislation would make us less safe 
     according to those best in a position to know. That's why it 
     is opposed by a broad coalition of law enforcement groups 
     such as the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police and the 
     Michigan Police Legislative Coalition (which includes the 
     Michigan State Police Troopers Association, the Michigan 
     State Police Command Officers Association, the Michigan 
     Association of Police, the Police Officers Labor Council, 
     Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association, Detroit 
     Police Officers Association, Warren Police Officers 
     Association, and Flint Police Officers Association).
       Law enforcement officers, who undergo an initial 72 hours 
     of firearms training as well as annual re-training, have 
     warned that allowing thousands more private citizens to carry 
     concealed handguns would pose significant threats to public 
     safety. It is unrealistic to expect citizens with a fraction 
     of the training to demonstrate the same precautions and the 
     same judgment as police officers. There is no justification 
     for making the already difficult and dangerous job of an 
     officer even more difficult and dangerous by increasing the 
     number of concealed handguns on the streets.
       I am also concerned that an increase in concealed weapons 
     licenses will effectively expand an exception in the Brady 
     background check system. The ``Brady Law'' provides that 
     licensed gun dealers are not required to initiate criminal 
     background checks if the purchaser presents a state-issued 
     license to carry a firearm which was issued within five 
     years. This would mean that people who have committed crimes 
     after they have received concealed carry licenses would be 
     able to purchase additional guns with no background checks 
     unless and until their licenses are revoked.
       Although the ``shall issue'' legislation allows the State 
     to suspend or revoke a license if the license holder has 
     committed a potentially disqualifying crime, the experiences 
     of other states with such laws show that revocation doesn't 
     happen instantly or always successfully. Some states with 
     ``shall issue'' laws have acknowledged mistakenly issuing 
     hundreds of licenses to applicants with prior convictions. 
     Once those persons manage to slip through the screening 
     process for concealed gun licenses that one time, they are 
     then able to buy guns without further background checks for 
     five years.
       Earlier this year, all eyes turned to Michigan after the 
     tragic shooting death of Kayla Rolland. Now, nearly ten 
     months later, the people of Michigan want all of us to work 
     toward decreasing the amount of gun violence in their schools 
     and community places, not increasing the proliferation of 
     guns in our neighborhoods and on our streets. The people of 
     Michigan reject the notion that they will be unsafe in public 
     places if not armed. I urge you to do the same and to veto 
     the ``shall issue'' legislation, leaving local gun boards in 
     charge of these often life and death decisions.
           Sincerely,
     Carl Levin.

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