By DAVID EGGERT, Associated Press
LANSING (AP) – Michigan could no longer let people openly carry guns into schools under a proposal pushed Thursday by a lawmaker and the state’s largest teachers’ union, which argued a loophole must be closed three months after the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school.
“A gun-free zone is not truly gun-free,” Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing, said during a Capitol news conference. “As a gun owner, I recognize the importance of the Second Amendment. But in this case, allowing openly armed civilians to roam the halls of our schools is a recipe for disaster.”
Under existing state law, people with concealed weapons permits may openly carry guns in schools, hospitals, sports arenas and other gun-free zones. But it is illegal to carry concealed weapons in those places.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in December vetoed legislation – passed hours before the Sandy Hook Elementary School attack – that would have allowed concealed weapons in gun-free zones and prohibited openly carried weapons. He said he wanted schools to be able to ban guns completely from their premises if they saw fit.
Schor’s bill was quietly introduced in January and has received no hearing. It also would add public libraries to the list of pistol-free zones.
“I can think of few things that would generate more panic in an elementary school full of kids than to have someone walking down the hall with a gun on their hip because they are hypersensitive to this sort of thing,” said Steve Cook, president of the Michigan Education Association.
In response to a GOP-sponsored bill that would make an exception to the ban on concealed firearms in schools, House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, said last month he did not think it was the right time for gun-related legislation so soon after the Newtown shooting.
Spokesman Ari Adler said Thursday that Bolger had not taken a position on the open-carry legislation.
“The bill will need to move through the committee process where it can be properly vetted to determine if it’s the right policy to address the growing concerns over both school safety and the Second Amendment rights of Michigan’s gun owners,” Adler said.
A gun-rights advocate disputed the contention that there is a “loophole” in the law and opposed any effort to ban all guns in schools, calling the current areas where concealed weapons are off limits “criminal-empowerment zones.”
“We support a person’s right to defend themselves wherever they are,” said Phillip Hofmeister, president of Michigan Open Carry.
He said his group last year made a concession to do away with openly carried guns in gun-free zones because most gun owners would prefer to conceal their weapons in schools and other areas. But since Snyder vetoed the bill, Hofmeister said, the organization is unlikely to support such a trade-off again.
Supporters of Schor’s bill say that under current law, law-abiding citizens could be mistaken as being dangerous if they legally openly carry a gun into a school.
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