In July 2001, the legislature authorized Michigan’s current concealed pistol license law.  Commonly referred to as a “CCW”, a concealed pistol license is now issued routinely unless the local gun board finds a reason not to grant the permit due to a legally recognized disability (criminal convictions, court recognized incompetence, questions of citizenship, etc.).   Since 2001, over 270,000 citizens now have a license to carry a concealed weapon on their person.  This number continues to grow month by month as more Michigan citizens choose to exercise their right to carry a pistol concealed.  You can see the latest version of the statute on the Michigan State Police website: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/publications/firearms.pdf

            Michigan is part of the national trend of more and more states that recognize the right of ordinary citizens with no criminal past to carry a gun concealed for their personal protection.  This is in contrast to the former system which only allowed concealed pistol licenses to be issued on a discretionary basis.  The discretion of the government to issue the license varied greatly from county to county and state to state.  This changed in the late 1990’s as states such as Texas and Florida enacted “shall issue” legislation which removed the discretion of local politicians and public officials to make decisions on issuing concealed pistol licenses.  These “shall issue” laws are now seen in thirty-five states.  Further, states such as Arizona, Alaska and Vermont do not even require their citizens to have a license to carry a weapon concealed, but rather recognized it as a fundamental right.

            From this movement has also come the “open carry” movement.  “Open carry” is the practice of carrying a gun openly on one’s belt.  Prior to 2009, the law always recognized the right to carry openly, but was the practice was generally discouraged by law enforcement.  Some municipalities have laws against open carry while others attempt to regulate it.  A movement of gun owners in Michigan and other states has now forced law enforcement to recognize the right to carry a weapon only as prescribed in Michigan’s statue.  There are still places where weapons may not be openly carried such as banks, federal buildings, schools, hospitals, casinos, large theaters and arenas, among other locations.  However, the fundamental right to carry a gun openly is recognized in Michigan and has survived legal challenges.

            The predictions by anti-gun activists of gun fights in the streets and senseless shooting incidents have never materialized.  The vast majority of gun owners who choose to carry their weapon concealed do so in a legal, safe and discrete manner.  Common violations of the statute include possession of a weapon while intoxicated and having their license suspended after being charged with domestic violence.  In these cases, county gun boards move swiftly to suspend and revoke the rights of the licensee from carrying a gun.  While there have been other incidents of road rage and other felonies, these are rare and not statistically significant.  With recent changes, the license is good for 5 years instead of 3 years and licensees do not need to disarm themselves when dropping their children off at school or daycare as long as they stay in their vehicles while on the premises.  The physical license is now the same size as a driver’s license and is easier to carry and display.  Other developments are coming regarding where licensees may carry their weapons.

            Practical Advice for Anyone Who Carries a Weapon

  1. Practice Shooting:  If you choose to exercise your right to obtain a concealed weapons permit and further choose to carry a gun in self-defense, it would be prudent to frequently practice with your chosen weapon of self-defense.  The Michigan law only requires one eight hour class with three hours of that class being “range time”.  To truly master and ably use a firearm, you must constantly practice shooting it on the range. 
  2. Practice Weapon Handling Skills:  Prudent gun owners need to practice skills such as safe holstering and un-holstering of the weapon, how to deal with jams and other firearm failures, have a plan for what to do in case a shooting takes place and even spend time working with non-lethal weapons such as pepper spray.  More accidents happen when holstering and un-holstering weapons.
  3. Learn the Law:  If you are uncertain or unfamiliar with the law, it would be prudent to spend time studying materials from trusted sources such as the National Rifle Association.  You may even wish to spend an hour or two with a criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with Michigan’s gun laws and the aftermath of shooting incidents.

            It is also prudent to have some planning in place in case you ever need to use your weapon in self-defense and find yourself in the position of having to defend against an assault or homicide claim.  It is certainly wise to know who your lawyer will be and to know what it would take to engage that lawyer should that time come.  Some insurance companies are now offering limited coverage for self-defense liability.  The law surrounding the so called “self-defense” policies is a bit murky.  You will want to understand your own state’s law to know whether you it is a legal product to sell and own before spending any money on such coverage.  Our law offices sponsors CCW Defenders, LLC, an organization for licensed concealed weapon holders who want to have access to a lawyer.  See http://www.ccwdefenders.com or call our offices for more information.

            The Bottom Line:

            The bottom line in self-defense with a firearm is absolute responsibility for the weapon and what comes out of it and cool, calm thinking under stress.  Cool, calm thinking will come from regular training, knowledge of the law, proper assessment of risks you face and acting with due care and caution should the situation call for the use of a firearm.  Remember that you still have a duty to avoid trouble and, if possible, escape if that option is available.  If it is not, and you need to resort to the last line of defense, you will feel better knowing that you were prepared and only did what you had to do in the end.

            For any questions regarding your rights as a firearm owner or how one would retain an attorney at a reasonable cost, call the law offices of Timothy A. Dinan (313) 821-5904 or see website at www.timdinan.com.