Popular gun rights bill that would prevent police from arresting gun owners for “brandishing” guns awaits approval by state Senate and quick action by governor.
“We shouldn’t have to think twice to exercise our right,” said Tom Lambert, assistant legislative director at Michigan Open Carry, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that advocates for and educates about the lawful open carry of a holstered handgun in Michigan.
Missing from the law is a distinct definition of “brandishing” as it relates to the open carry of firearms in the Great Lake State, he said. “MOC worked with state legislators to prepare and introduce two bills that clearly define brandishing.”
H.B. 5092 provides for this revised meaning: “Brandish” means to point, wave about, or display in a threatening manner with the intent to induce fear in another person.
The two companion bills passed with overriding bipartisan support in the house and with unanimous support in the senate committees will head for a vote in the full senate, said Lambert. “They are almost through the process.”
H.B. 5091 passed in the House by a 104 to 5 vote with primary sponsor state Rep. Joel C. Johnson (R. -Saginaw); and H.B. 5092 passed in the house by a 105 to 4 vote with primary sponsor Rep. Brandon Dillon (D. – Grand Rapids), he said.
MOC expects the state Senate to pass the measures with the same enthusiasm as the House, but they believe Gov. Richard D. “Rick” Snyder will be hesitant to sign any gun bill in an election year, he said. “We expect the governor to sign it we just don’t know when.”
Snyder, a first-term Republican governor up for reelection this year, has previously indicated he would uphold the Second Amendment. At his 2010 campaign website, Snyder said, “We have a long tradition in our state of supporting gun rights and the hunting industry in Michigan and I would continue to support that tradition as Governor.”
Gun rights groups are trying to get the bills passed in the Senate this week, said Lambert.“They have organized a rally for Tuesday.”
The overwhelming bipartisan support in the legislature combined with the will of the people will hopefully encourage the governor to act on the bill, he said.
“With springtime here we expect to see more open carry,” he said. “We are hoping we don’t have to wait for the bill to pass.”
It was a lack of clarity in the law that led to a number of cases over the years in which citizens were either threatened by law enforcement with the charge of brandishing or were unlawfully charged, said Lambert.
“We put the definition into the statute,” he said. “It’s easy for everyone to find both for citizens and law enforcement.”
By making this point clear, he said, MOC would like to cut down on threats and unnecessary litigation. “Even when the cases are thrown out it is still a significant emotional and financial toll on the people.”
While most of the time people are not charged with brandishing, when they are, the cases are dismissed or prove to be without merit, he said. “Recently a case on the east side of the state went all the way through the courts until he was finally found not guilty.”
“Why should there be a toll at all?” asked Lambert. “All we are doing is something completely legal and it is our right to do.”