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Handgun permits prompt questions of privacy, regulations

February 06, 2013 - Brandon Twp.-Ken Davis has been a local gun wholesale dealer for about 30 years.

"The recent controversy surrounding gun ownership and sales has not really changed my business," said Davis, a township resident. "Ammunition sales have increased, but not guns. Honestly, dealers just have to watch who they sell to—that's a major concern of mine."

Davis is just one of thousands of gun dealers nationwide that have come under scrutiny in the past year following mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. and the Century Movie Theater in Aurora, Colo. Many lawmakers, along with President Barack Obama, have addressed the issue of gun control, sparking often heated debate from gun owners and those seeking more stringent regulations.

"I think changes in the law need to be made," said Davis. "One that I've seen over my years in the business are gun show dealers and the guns that are sold at garage sales. They just put their guns on the table and anyone that walks up to them can buy it—that's just not right. I've seen guns sold without any identification at all. It's a loophole in the law that needs to be changed. There needs to be more background checks and more security on just who is buying guns. It should include any type of firearm including pistols and long rifles. Honestly, it's just too easy to buy guns."

Davis said his firearms will include who is buying and just where it's going to go after the sale.

"I just can't sell at random," he said.

The identification of individuals who have recently purchased guns or have been owners were recently publicized on the East Coast.

Days after the Sandy Hook killings on Dec.14, 2012, The Journal News in Westchester County, N.Y., just a few miles away from the community, published the names and addresses of handgun permit holders in their readership area. The newspaper responded to an outcry that reverberated across many states by claiming that informing people about legal weapons in their neighborhoods was a public service, reported The New York Times.

"That's not going to happen in Michigan," said Mackinac Center Legislative Analyst Jack McHugh. "The ownership of concealed weapons is private information here."

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a non-partisan research and educational institute for Michigan residents that addresses state and local policy questions.

In 2006, then-Gov. Jennifier Granholm signed in to law House Bill 5217, to make ownership of handguns a private matter. Furthermore, concealed pistol license records are a matter confidentiality. Those records are not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

"Concealed weapon licenses are a private matter right now in Michigan by statute. However, right now handgun sales records and pistol sales permits are protected only by case law," added McHugh. "Senate Bill 49 would amend the law and keep that information private."

State Senator Tom Casperson, (R-Escanaba), has proposed the bill that would keep state databases containing information on issued handgun licenses private. The bill would also keep such licenses not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Senate Bill 49 was introduced following the New York newspaper article, said McHugh.

"I guess the court ruling could be reversed—but either way we're not going have a New York situation here in Michigan where those names are made public," he said.

Senate Bill 49 moved from the Senate Judiciary Committee and is currently on the senate calendar, however, no date was provided for discussion.

Sen. David Robertson (R-Grand Blanc) of the 26th District serving Atlas, Brandon and Groveland townships, said he would likely support SB 49.

"I see no problem with the bill; however, it has not come up for debate yet," he said. "There has been little or no opposition (to SB 49) in committee and bi-partisan support. I see no problems."

Amy Dehner, Michigan State Police legislative liaison, said there is a great deal of confusion right now regarding handgun registration.

"Law enforcement, the handgun permit owner, or to determine gun ownership in the event of a death, are some examples of releasing names from the data base," she said. "Otherwise that information will be kept confidential and private."

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