Wednesday, October 6, 2010

7 Myths About The Michigan Concealed Pistol License (CPL) You May Have Heard

As a Firearms Trainer, I have a lot of contact with people who are interested in learning more about the state of Michigan's Concealed Pistol License (CPL). During many of those conversations, I am informed of inaccurate info that was shared with them by a friend. This post will document and debunk the top seven myths I have heard about the Michigan CPL.

Myth 1: A Michigan CPL Is A 007 License
A Michigan CPL is permit that allows a person to carry a concealed pistol "on or about his person." In contrast, Ian Fleming's fictional character - James Bond - has a License To Kill.

All citizens in Michigan - whether they have a CPL or not - have a right to use lethal force in the defense of their lives, however, the intent is not to kill; it is to stop the imminent threat presented by the assailant. Obviously, a concealed pistol affords the carrier a greater chance at surviving a violent attack than being unarmed.

Lethal force in Michigan can only be used under a very narrow band of circumstances. As such, all persons who own a firearm for personal protection should take a bona fide Personal Protection course to learn the law or risk being prosecuted, imprisoned, and sued.

Myth 2: A Michigan CPL Holder Is A Deputized Officer
Michigan law does allow legally armed citizens to come to aid of "third persons" who are under an imminent attack of severe bodily harm under a narrow band of circumstances. However, no provision exists in the law that gives a Michigan CPL-holder the status of a sworn law enforcement officer.

While Michigan law, under certain circumstances, may allow a CPL-holder to defend a person accompanying him or even a complete stranger, he should not engage in any activity performed by an officer such as chasing and "arresting" suspects.

Myth 3: A Michigan CPL Is Needed To Open Carry
A Michigan CPL is not needed to openly carry a registered pistol, as long as the carrier is 18 years of age, is not intoxicated, and does not breach any state enumerated pistol-free zones.

One interesting quirk in Michigan law, which may be the source of this myth, allows persons with a Michigan CPL to open carry in state enumerated pistol-free zones. This interpretation of Michigan law was reached by then state Attorney General Jennifer Granholm in an opinion written in 1991. Of course, private property rights of the respective owners, trump any open carry rights in enumerated pistol-free zones by CPL-holders.

Myth 4: A Renewal Class Is Needed To Renew A Michigan CPL
Many CPL-holders, when they realize that their permit will be expiring soon, will call a Firearms Safety Instructor to inquire about a Renewal Class. They are usually pleasantly surprised to find out that such a class, although routinely offered in the marketplace is not required.

The CPL stature merely requires the submission of another application, payment of the $105 fee, and a sworn statement that they have reviewed their previous course materials and have recently visited a gun range to practice shooting at a target.

Some CPL-holders elect to retake the class anyway so that they can learn about changes in the law. Accordingly, many significant changes were made in Michigan firearms law in 2006. So, in my professional opinion, if a CPL-holder first received his permit before then, the class should be taken again. Again, it is not a requirement but the changes in the law were profound and significant.

Myth 5: A Michigan CPL Is The Same Thing As A CCW
Many people use the terms CPL and CCW interchangeably. A CPL is a permit which gives a specified person permission to carry a concealed pistol "on or about his person." In contrast, a CCW is a felony that person will be criminally charged with if they "Carry A Concealed Weapon" (e.g. a pistol) without a CPL.

Context is everything, so depending on how the two terms are used will usually convey the correct meaning. In fact, many Firearms Instructors intentionally use the CCW term in their promotional offerings so that interested students will "know" what the class teaches. Of course, the instructors will need to clear up the confusion when the students come to class.

Myth 6: Law Enforcement Notification Is Still Needed If Not Concealed Carrying
Although Michigan law requires CPL-holders to disclose their status, when stopped by law enforcement officers while concealed carrying a handgun, there is no legal requirement to do so if they are unarmed. As a practical matter, it would be prudent to do so to avoid raising any suspicions about not making the disclosure but it is not required while you do not have a loaded handgun in your car or "on or about your person."

Myth 7: A Michigan CPL Holder Can Carry Only One Pistol
There is no specified limit in Michigan law that limits the number of handguns a CPL-holder can conceal carry. He is free to carry as many concealed pistols as he desires. As a practical matter, many licensees don't carry too many at one time; loaded firearms have weight, make concealment tougher to pull off without detection, and take up room that could be used for other self-defense accessories. So, while it is legal to conceal carry several pistols, many opt not to do so.

Bottom Line:
Gun laws are incredibly easy to violate and carry harsh penalties when discovered and prosecuted. It would be wise for a CPL-holder to research the laws for himself and to consult with a knowledgeable authority when required to ensure that his actions while armed are legal. Free advice from laymen, including active-duty sworn police officers, is usually worth exactly what you paid to receive it - nothing. Govern yourself accordingly.
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