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Published: Wednesday, 7/11/2001

More guns in Michigan

In ramming through a new “concealed carry” law, the Michigan legislature and the Michigan Supreme Court mocked the will of those in the Wolverine state who wanted a statewide vote on the weapons measure.

A group known as People Who Care About Kids submitted referendum petitions with more than 230,000 signatures to put the newly enacted law to a vote in November, 2002. But the legislature, in a sneaky effort to circumvent the public, inserted a $1 million appropriation into the legislation, invoking a constitutional prohibition against subjecting budget bills to referendum.

Now, the state Supreme Court has joined in this charade with a weak-kneed 4-3 ruling that it isn't up to the court to decide whether the legislature is playing games with legislation, only the outcome.

The outcome, in this case, is a direct slap in the face to every resident who signed the referendum petitions, not to mention a coalition of police groups, including the Detroit Police Officers Association, which argued that more concealed weapons on the streets isn't the prescription for public safety the gun-rights people claim it is.

The law, which took effect July 1, requires counties to issue concealed-carry permits to anyone 21 and over who has no history of felony convictions or mental illness. Previous law required permit-seekers to prove a need to carry a concealed weapon. What's wrong with that? If they don't have a good reason, maybe they don't need a gun.

The Supreme Court action, which reversed a ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals, wasn't a mystery to those who follow politics up north. All four justices in the majority - Clifford Taylor, Robert Young, Jr., Stephen Markman, and Maura Corrigan - are appointees of Gov. John Engler, a charter member of the more-guns crowd.

In justifying the ruse by the legislature and court, Mr. Engler maintained that the new law is actually quite restrictive, requiring permit applicants to undergo “significant training and background checks.”

Mr. Engler may be right about that, but he is dead wrong for participating in a disingenuous exercise in public policy that disregards a massive petition drive and the express will of a large number of residents who wanted the question on the ballot.

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