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Political roundup: Efforts to loosen restrictions on firearms, and sweetheart deal for a salt mine

There's debate whether concealed carry rules affect public safety, or are just a "coat tax." And adding tax on out-of-state salt bids would cost Michigan municipalities and counties.

The Michigan Legislature is debating concealed guns and a sweetheart deal for a salt mine.

To discuss those bills, Stateside welcomed Vicki Barnett – a former mayor of Farmington Hills and former democratic legislator – alongside Ken Sikkema, Senior Policy Fellow with Public Sector Consultants and a former Republican legislator.

Regarding concealed weapons, some members of the legislature support repealing a law that requires training and a permit in order to carry and conceal firearms. Supporters say Michigan law currently lets anyone openly carry firearms, so people should not have to pay more, and file extra paperwork simply to carry firearms inside jackets or other clothing.

Barnett opposes repealing the law and says any rule that gets rid of training for the use of deadly weapons “isn’t a sound policy.”

“The training is necessary and it also provides an extra background check from the time you purchase the weapon to the time you receive a concealed weapons permit,” Barnett said. “That allows law enforcement to check and make sure you are mentally capable of carrying that weapon.”

The bill that would eliminate concealed carry regulations is part of a package of four bills. Another proposes eliminating criminal penalties for gun sellers who fail to maintain records of guns sales.

Sikkema says there’s a distinction between laws regarding who can purchase handguns and other laws regulating differences between open and concealed carry. He says legislators advocating changes to concealed carry permits are trying to address “byzantine” rules in Michigan.

“The rules between open and concealed carry are so complex we need to rationalize them a little bit,” Sikkema said. “I think what [advocates of changing concealed carry regulations] are saying is, ‘If I can open carry a pistol and I don’t have a concealed weapons license that goes along with it, then I’m in violation if [I]’, as  they say, ‘put the coat on.’ … They like to call it a ‘coat tax.’”

Sikkemma says if he were in the legislature, he would ask law enforcement officials for their opinions and any evidence that could shed light on whether regulating concealed carry leads to greater public safety.

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Another bill concerns companies that supply road salt to Michigan. The bill would add an eight percent premium onto bids from companies outside of Michigan. The proposal seems to insulate the Detroit Salt company (which holds a multi-million dollar contract with the state) from outside competition. Ironically, an Ontario-based company owns The Detroit Salt Company. 

“The department of Management and budget said this does increase costs for the state of Michigan most definitely,” Barnett said. “And it could filter down and increase costs for any municipality or county that uses the state’s bidding system to purchase their salt for the winter. This is a very puzzling bill to me.”   

Sikkemma says on the surface, the bill is “blatant government price-fixing.”

“It’s frankly bewildering that a republican senate would pass it,” Sikkema said. “It makes you think there must be something else going on here.”

Listen to the full interview to hear Stateside’s discussion with Ken Sikkema and Vicky Barnett about bills being considered by Michigan’s legislature.

Ken Sikkema and Vicki Barnett join Stateside every Friday to break down the week’s political news.

Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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