Thursday, December 6, 2012

Why Michigan Should Abolish Handgun Purchase Permits and Handgun Registrations

The state of Michigan may soon abolish handgun registrations and handgun purchase permits. Michigan House Bill 5225 (HB 5225) - the legislation which seeks to abolish the aforementioned pistol reporting requirements - has already been passed by the Michigan House of Representatives and is expected to be put up for a vote within the next few days in the Michigan Senate.

At least with respect to handgun registrations, the state of Michigan is very late to the gun rights party; it is one of a small remaining number of US states that still require them: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, and New Jersey. Although momentum is currently favoring HB 5225's passage, it has not stopped a couple of special interest groups from opposing it.

It came as a surprise to no one that the Michigan State Police has voiced their opposition to the proposed law. After all, they were among the chief naysayers predicting doom, gloom, and cries of "blood running in the streets" when Michigan went to a shall-issue system of issuing Concealed Pistol Licenses (CPL), whereby uniform criteria was applied to all applicants regardless of where they lived. Their forecasts were embarrassingly wrong and injurious to their future credibility of predicting outcomes when gun control measures are rightfully and righteously struck down.

Additional opposition to HB 5225 has been voiced by only eight mayors from among the numerous cities and townships from across the state who also happen to belong to the notorious anti-gun group intentionally misnamed as the Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Recognizable members of that organization include the following mayors: Dave Bing (Detroit), Virg Benero (Lansing), and Brenda Lawrence (Southfield).

Yesterday, I was invited by a local talk radio station program to debate Lawrence in-studio and live over the public airwaves on the subject of HB 5225. Over the course of the hour-long discussion, we covered most of talking points on the subject. In the aftermath of the verbal exchange, I was even more convinced than before we started that the time for the state of Michigan to abolish handgun purchase permits and to dismantle the state handgun registration database was long overdue.

The most quoted justification for the abolition of handgun purchase permits is that the current process to acquire one is redundant, unnecessary, and unduly cumbersome. Under current law, a prospective handgun buyer who has not applied for and received a CPL, will ultimately need to visit their local law enforcement agency at least twice - maybe more - and be subjected to - at the least - two separate, albeit different, background checks by two different organizations to purchase one handgun.

Specifically, the would-be buyer requests a handgun purchase permit from their local police department. That process includes a background query performed on the applicant's criminal background history in the state's Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN). If the applicant passes, he is given a "10 Day Purchase Permit" which authorizes the buyer to purchase a handgun within the next 10 calendar days.

If for whatever reason a purchase is not made, the applicant must return the original permit and re-apply for another one which will also entail another LEIN check. This process will repeat until either the would-be buyer quits in exhaustion or frustration or he eventually makes a handgun purchase.

It should also be noted that many applicants are discouraged during this part of the handgun purchasing qualification process, especially where certain jurisdictions have "virtual hours" and are not open to the public during conventional hours and are not adequately staffed to handle these permits in an expeditious fashion during this current era of public resource austerity.

During my past several years as a Firearms Instructor in this state, I have heard many horror stories where undue delays - sometimes as long as 42 days in one jurisdiction - successfully convinced several prospective buyers that it would be easier to bypass this process altogether by qualifying for a CPL and using that as a handgun purchase permit which is allowed under current Michigan law.

When a handgun buyer with a "10 Day Purchase Permit" buys a pistol from a gun dealer - a federal firearm licensee (FFL) - the dealer is required by federal law to perform a background check using a federal government verification system: the National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS). This background check, operational since 1998, is more comprehensive than the LEIN check done by local law enforcement agencies. As a consequence, the police background checks are redundant, unnecessary, and tie up public resources.

When the buyer successfully completes his handgun purchase, he is required by current state law to submit documentation to local law enforcement to have his pistol registered within 10 calendar days. If the registration paperwork is not submitted on time, the buyer could be convicted of a misdemeanor crime for failing to register his handgun which will also lead to a suspension of a CPL if had been issued.

At the time of handgun registration, local law enforcement will then issue a handgun registration certificate. The registration must be kept in his possession for at least 30 days when carrying his pistol to allow enough sufficient time for the LEIN to be updated. If a handgun owner does not have the registration in tow while carrying his firearm and the LEIN is either inaccessible or the registration data has not been entered into the system, the handgun is subject to seizure as a potential unregistered firearm.

The chief justification used by gun control advocates to continue the current system of pistol purchase permits is an unwarranted concern about a lack of governmental tracking of handgun ownership transfers in private sale transactions in which NICS checks are not required to be performed. A common claim made is that ineligible persons - felons and the mentally ill - will now be able to purchase and possess handguns.

This simplistic knee-jerk response boldly ignores the fact that under our current system, ineligible persons already buy or otherwise acquire firearms. Existing laws which legally bar arms from felons and the mentally are still on the books. If a bad guy gets caught with a firearm when he shouldn't he will still be held accountable.

Likewise, any person who knowingly sells a firearm to a prohibited person will also be judged. Ending handgun registrations for law-abiding citizens will not lead to an increase of criminals with firearms. They already have guns and will always have guns via their numerous methods of acquisition. The real issue is whether we - the state of Michigan - can make it easier for good people to have arms to protect ourselves from bad guys.

HB 225, if enacted, will also require the destruction of the state's handgun registration database. Members of law enforcement community have decried this requirement as hampering their ability to solve crimes involving firearms. It has been often said that extra-ordinary claims require extra-ordinary evidence. If their assertion was true we - the general public - would have been inundated with numerous and specific examples demonstrating the aforementioned database as a valuable crime-fighting tool. That has not happened.

The best example that the law enforcement community could do was to suggest that the handgun registration database helped them identify and catch Raulie Casteel - dubbed the I-96 Corridor Shooter. Casteel is suspected of having shot as many as 24 different people on the freeway. Undoubtedly, pressure was high for the law enforcement community to make an arrest in the aforementioned case.

Published reports stated that bullet fragments from the cars of the shot victims were used along with tips to identify suspects in the database. Sounds good, however, there is no direct way to match bullets, without a gun, to a specific owner within the handgun database. Since the gun was in the possession of the shooter while they were looking for him, it is far more likely that they were lucky recipients of a good tip from their hotline that lead them to their suspect. Law enforcement claims about the utility of the database in this case or any other they can concoct are the constituent ingredients of an urban legend.

Gun control advocates, such as the one I debated yesterday are genuinely perplexed why we - Second Amendment supporters - are so insistent on getting HB 5225 passed. It is in its simplest essence an exercise in learning from the mistakes made by others in the past. History books are full of examples whereby citizens were first required by their government to register their arms before eventually having them confiscated. If we truly value the freedoms that we have and we wish to pass them onto the next generation, we must leave them the tools to do - the right to keep and bear arms.

Our case is only made easier by the simple fact the status quo is redundant, inefficient, cumbersome, discouraging, wasteful, and in the end serves no useful purpose. Tack on the fact that Michigan is now considered an odd-ball on the subject, due to it being one of a mere handful of states that still require handgun registration and handgun purchase permits, we are way overdue. The time has come and it is now.

Support HB 5225.

Note: Graphic courtesy of

About The Author
Rick Ector is a National Rifle Association credentialed Firearms Trainer, who provides Michigan CCW Class training in Detroit for students at his firearms school - Rick's Firearm Academy of Detroit.

Ector is a recognized expert in firearm safety and has been featured extensively in the national and local media: Associated Press, NRAnews, Gun Digest, The Politics Daily, Fox News Detroit, The Detroit News, WJLB, WGPR and the UrbanShooterPodcast.

For more info about Detroit Michigan CPL Classes, please contact:

Rick's Firearm Academy of Detroit
Contact: Rick Ector
Phone: 313.733.7404

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