MICHIGAN — In a bid to streamline the process for obtaining a concealed pistol permit, local county gun boards will no longer play any role under a new law effective Dec. 1.
County clerks will still collect the permit applications, but Michigan State Police will be in charge of administering background checks through the national crime database. Final verification will remain with the clerk while the county boards will be eliminated.
The change has spurred some concerns from opponents who have argued removing the local county boards from the mix will also eliminate an important safeguard in the process.
“When you look at the process where the gun board is interviewing people, the gun board is catching things that may not have necessarily been reflected on an application or on a background check," said Justin Roebuck, Ottawa County Clerk.
Roebuck admits those kinds of cases, at least in his county, are relatively few and far between, but he'd still prefer local control over the issue.
“When you think about it, these gun boards are people in your community, and you’re sitting across from someone and we’re going through a process together," he said.
There are 83 county gun boards statewide, typically composed of three individuals representing the citizens, county sheriff and local prosecutor.
In an effort to speed up what some have argued is an unfairly slow process in some counties, the new law requires permits be issued to qualifying applicants within 45 days of applying.
Under the new law authorities also no longer have the ability to access mental health records of applicants.
Tom Lambert, president and legislative director with Michigan Open Carry Inc., said the gun boards have infringed upon people's constitutional rights since the very beginning and applauds the new change.
“It’s an archaic system, it's been a long time coming," Lambert said. “Their argument can be summed up as they (county gun boards) want discretion over our rights, and my answer to that is quite simple, it’s no.”
Lambert said Michigan remains an anomaly as the only state where such county boards exist, asserting several weren't following the law anyway by unfairly dragging out the process. He said these changes will make Michigan a true "shall issue" state, which means as long as certain statutory criteria is met a concealed pistol license must be issued.
“Any extra layer that it would be eliminating was illegal," he said. "Any control they (county gun boards) think they would’ve had before they actually didn’t have.”
Michigan became a "shall issue" state in 2001 when laws were put in place allowing anyone 21 or older to be issued a CPL as long as they completed required training, background checks and had no records of felonies, among other limited conditions.
In the time since, the number of concealed weapons permits in Michigan has dramatically increased from less than 100,000 to more than 500,000. It's a trend reflected locally where, during the same time period in Kent County, active licenses have increased from roughly 180 to more than 16,000.
Michigan State Police has remained neutral on the issue and representatives have said they don't expect delays in the background checks because the new law also permits that the fee revenues which formerly went to counties will now go toward supporting increased MSP staffing.
An applicant will have a year to renew an expired license before having to apply for a new one. But those applications may only be submitted once a year under new provisions.
Application fees for first-time and renewal applicants will cost $115, which is an increase from $105.
Any valid CPL issued before Dec. 1 will continue to be in effect until the expiration of the license.