By a 5-1 vote, the Michigan House Military, Veterans and Homeland Security Committee today passed a series of bills that would establish permitless carry, also known as constitutional carry, in the state.

The main bill in the package, House Bill 4770, would eliminate current restrictions on carrying concealed weapons and storing them in vehicles, and make a CPL license unnecessary – although gun owners still could opt to get the license.

Another bill, House Bill 4771, would repeal several existing licensing requirements for gun owners and allow concealed carry in places currently considered gun-free zones, like churches, daycares and hospitals. People still couldn’t concealed carry in schools under the legislation, and privately-run businesses would still have discretion over whether to allow guns on the premises, bill sponsors said.

Republicans outnumber Democrats on the committee 5-4, but three Democrats abstained from voting on the proposals, which now head to the House Judiciary Committee.

If Michigan adopts constitutional carry, it would be the 15th state to do so. Just because the bill has cleared a committee, however, doesn’t mean it won’t face challenges in the legislature, or from the state’s Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Supporters of the bills say the package would put gun owners on a level playing field with criminals who disregard existing gun laws, while critics argue the legislation is dangerous and could put Michigan residents at risk by allowing people to carry hidden, loaded firearms in more places without a permit or any safety training.

During testimony last week, state Rep. Steven Johnson, R-Wayland, said the bills wouldn’t change who can purchase a firearm in Michigan, and argued removing the need for a concealed license could lift a financial burden off of law-abiding gun owners.

“As long as I’m legally allowed to possess a firearm, to own a firearm, I can do that, but the second I put a coat on…I can commit a five-year felony unless I have this special card,” Johnson said while holding up his CPL license. “This is about protecting good law-abiding Michiganders.”

In Michigan the open carrying of a firearm is allowed without a license, but as Rep. Johnson notes, as soon as you put a jacket on, or your shirt becomes untucked, you risk a felony charge. That’s pretty ridiculous.

The legislation passed by the House committee wouldn’t change who can legally keep a firearm, but simply state that those who can legally do so can also legally bear it. It would also keep the existing concealed carry licensing system in place, and I imagine plenty of Michiganders would continue to possess a license, if for no other reason than Michigan’s license to carry is recognized in 39 other states. I know it’s an uphill climb for the bill in Michigan, but I appreciate the legislators who are engaged in the fight.

We’ve seen more than a dozen states institute constitutional carry, and not one of them has gone back and repealed the law (the same thing is true of “shall issue” right to carry laws across the nation). Oklahoma’s constitutional carry law will be going into effect in less than two weeks, in fact. I hope Michigan lawmakers who are on the fence pay attention to the rollout, because they’ll see that life continues on as normal in the Sooner State, just as it has in every other state that’s adopted constitutional carry.