Whitmer vetoes bill ensuring access to 2A rights during emergencies

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

As we predicted earlier this month, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has vetoed a bill requiring county officials to continue processing concealed carry applications during declared states of emergencies, once again putting her contempt for the right to keep and bear arms on full display.

In a letter to legislators Friday, the Democratic governor said the measure would have mandated that clerks issue licenses without regard to the scope or gravity of the emergency or whether in-person services would jeopardize clerks.

Republican Sen. Lana Theis called the veto disappointing for gun owners and said Second Amendment rights can’t be infringed.

Those were basically the same objections raised by Democrats in the state legislature, and no one really expected Whitmer to think for herself or side with the civil rights of Michiganders on this particular issue. Still, Theis is right when she calls the veto “disappointing,” particularly given what has transpired in the state over the past two years while Whitmer’s COVID orders have kept many businesses and government offices off-limits to the general public.

In Wayne County, 2A groups were forced to file suit last year after wait times for concealed carry applications stretched out to more than a year; an issue that the county clerk blamed on COVID staffing levels. And while thousands of legal gun owners were left twiddling their thumbs for months on end, prosecutors in Wayne County were also charging a growing number of residents with carrying without a license.

That possessory offense is a felony crime in Michigan, and one that comes with a potential five-year prison sentence. By January of this year public defenders in Wayne County deemed the problem so bad that they called on the prosecutor to quit charging CCW-only cases entirely.

As 7 Action News reported Monday, the number of people charged with just carrying a concealed weapon in Wayne County has exploded since the pandemic. NDS reports that 70% of its clients charged with the crime legally own their weapon and, citing internal statistics, said 97% are black.

In a press conference today, they called for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to dismiss CCW-only charges currently pending.

“The vast majority of the CCW arrests are involving legal guns, legally owned by the arrestees,” said Arnie Chambers, a criminal defense attorney. “Most have very little if any prior contacts with law enforcement, yet they’re being charged with felonies.”

This is what happens when the state prevents law-abiding citizens from exercising their constitutionally-protected rights, and by vetoing the fix offered by legislators, Whitmer has in essence given her stamp of approval to the practices of the Wayne County prosecutor.

Some of those arrested may have believed that they were allowed to carry a gun in their vehicle without a carry license, but my guess is that at least a few of the legal gun owners charged with violating the state’s CCW laws had to make a conscious choice; violate the law and be better protected, or abide by the law and put themselves at risk of becoming the victim of violent crime.

It’s a difficult choice, and one that, frankly, legal gun owners in Michigan shouldn’t have to make. Because of Whitmer’s contempt for our right to keep and bear arms, however, there’ll be plenty more victims of Michigan’s gun control laws and Whitmer’s veto confined to prison in the months ahead, and I hope that the Republicans vying to replace her as governor will remind voters of this fact every single day between now and November 8th.