By LAURA BOHANNON
Capital News Service
LANSING — People with concealed pistols could avoid felony charges for expired licenses under a bill introduced by Rep. Shane Hernandez, R-Port Huron.
Under current law, anyone with an expired concealed pistol license who still carries his or her concealed weapon could be charged with a felony, even if it’s only been a few days since the license expired, Hernandez said.
Hernandez said he was inspired to introduce the bill after hearing about a staffer’s friend who faced such a charge because of a recently expired icense during a routine traffic stop.
The bill would reduce that felony to a civil misdemeanor with a $330 fine if someone’s license has been expired for six months or less.
Hernandez also said offenders could get out of paying the fine if they’re able to prove they renewed their license within 60 days of the violation.
Allowing a grace period will help “law-abiding citizens” continue to exercise their right to carry, Hernandez said. He said that since they already went through the trouble of obtaining a license, they shouldn’t be subject to a felony if their license is expired for a few days.
Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, said the idea of reducing the felony charge is good, but he isn’t sold on allowing people to get out of paying a fine if they correct their mistake within two months.
Hoadley has questions about some aspects of how to penalize people with expired concealed pistol licenses.
“This fine forgiveness thing, I’m not sure if I’m there yet,” Hoadley said. “I’m not sure why someone who follows the law should be put in the exact same bucket as someone who doesn’t.”
“I think Hernandez is right, that we shouldn’t make criminals out of folks who made a paperwork error,” Hoadley said. “It doesn’t mean they should get off scot-free.
“If you’re late renewing your driver’s license, you have to pay more.”
Hernandez doesn’t think that people should be able to get away with a reduced penalty if they’ve gone a long period of time with an expired CPL, either.
“If someone goes longer than six months without renewing their CPL, then they’re just ignoring the law,” Hernandez said.
While he’s aware that license-holders are notified when the license needs to be renewed, things come up that may deter them from doing so right away, Hernandez said.
Linda Brundage, the executive director of the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, said she doesn’t think there’s a reason the penalty should be reduced from a felony to a civil misdemeanor.
“People should be held accountable. We need to protect our communities, and I’m not sure what is to be gained by changing the penalties if your license expires,” she said.
“With the right to drive a car, I have the responsibility to ensure I’m properly licensed. If carrying a concealed pistol is so important to someone, then they should make certain they’re properly licensed as well,”