LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan House passed a package of four bills that would make concealed pistol licenses optional for people living in the state.
The primary bill passed 59 to 49 Wednesday while others moved on to the state Senate via similar votes.
They would remove the restriction of requiring a license to carry a concealed pistol and let people voluntarily get education or training since a permit would not be required.
Before the House vote on the main bill state Rep. Lee Chatfield, a Republican from Levering, said that criminals do not obey current gun laws and won't obey future gun laws.
"I wholeheartedly believe allowing law-abiding citizens the opportunity to have the same freedoms that criminals already do in this state will make our communities safer," Chatfield said.
Michigan's concealed carry permit also is referred to as the "coat tax" by some because a person would need one on them if a coat or jacket falls over their weapon. Tom Lambert, president of Michigan Open Carry Inc., supports the legislation and says the coat tax can turn a law-abiding citizen into a felon.
Rep. Michelle Hoitenga, a Republican from Manton, says she knows of law-abiding citizens without concealed pistol licenses who get in trouble when their clothing accidentally covers their pistol when they are open-carrying.
Opponents say not requiring concealed pistol licenses - and the training required to get them - could pose dangers to police and the public.
Democratic state Rep. Jewell Jones, from Inkster, said it is the primary responsibility of the government to make sure citizens are safe.
"Should another mother have to bury her child because of a tragedy that occurred because of irresponsible and untrained handling of a firearm," Jones said before a vote Wednesday on the House floor.
The bills now go to the GOP-controlled Senate. They can't be taken up until after the Legislature returns from a summer break in September.
A spokeswoman for the Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said he still is looking the bills over and deciding what he feels about the legislation.