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Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is considering signing a bill that would allow concealed guns in public schools just four days after the massacre of 20 pupils in Connecticut.
The Michigan bill, approved by the legislature less than 24 hours before the Newtown killings, is a practical way to let teachers who’ve completed training protect themselves and their pupils, said Senator Tom Casperson, a Republican sponsor of the bill. He said some teachers at the Connecticut school died trying to shield children.
“To me it gives them a chance,” he said.
The measure, which also would permit firearms in hospitals and stadiums, is among several under consideration in states including Ohio, Oklahoma and Alabama that would redefine where residents may carry or keep guns.
The Michigan bill is receiving extra consideration from the Republican governor because of the shooting, said Snyder’s spokeswoman, Sara Wurfel.
The measure faced opposition from hospital and school groups and support from gun groups. A coalition of clergy plan today to hold a prayer vigil outside of Snyder’s Lansing office to urge him to veto the measure.
Under the legislation, retired police officers and those with permits who’ve had additional training would be allowed to take concealed guns into the zones.
Churches and businesses could post signs prohibiting guns to exempt themselves from the law. Democrats questioned whether the bill allows schools to similarly ban concealed weapons, as lawmakers were told.
“There’s a resounding call for people around the state for the governor to veto this bill,” said Bob McCann, a spokesman for Senate Democrats. Only one Senate Democrat voted for it, he said.
McCann said the Connecticut shootings should prompt a debate in Michigan over violence, guns and mental health care.
Senator Rick Jones, a Republican, said today in a telephone interview that the bill would in fact restrict guns more than current law, which allows gun owners to carry holstered openly firearms in public areas.
“You actually can strap on a gun like a cowboy and walk into any of these so-called gun-free zones,” said Jones, a former sheriff in Eaton County. “I think if it was truly understood by everybody they would be in support of it.”
“The governor will probably veto it because it’s controversial,” he said.
President Barack Obama at a prayer vigil for the victims pledged on Dec. 16 to use “whatever power” he holds to prevent similar killings.
As of Dec. 1, there were 351,599 concealed weapons permits approved in Michigan, according to the State Police website.
“We are terribly hurt by this horrific shooting in Connecticut, but there is no law that we can pass that would prevent it,” Jones said. “What we need is a new move to guarantee that young people when it is recognized that they have mental-health issues will get proper mental-health counseling.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Higgins in Southfield, Michigan, at firstname.lastname@example.org; Chris Christoff in Lansing at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at firstname.lastname@example.org