LANSING, MICH. - The Michigan Senate approved legislation Wednesday allowing the concealed carry of handguns in places that have traditionally been off limits to guns, such as schools, churches, day care centers, bars and stadiums.
The three-bill package, which now moves to the state House, passed the Senate in 25-12 votes, over strong objections from Democrats, one day after it cleared a Senate committee.
Emotions ran high, particularly in light of Sunday's massacre at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, that left 26 people dead and 20 more injured.
Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, and other proponents said Sunday's tragedy made the legislation more timely than ever, on the theory that having responsible armed gun owners in churches or schools could deter, stop or minimize such attacks.
Meekhof said the vast majority of mass killings occur in gun-free zones and "citizens have the right to be safe and secure and defend themselves and their loved ones."
A neighbor of the Texas church fired at and pursued the shooter Sunday and has been credited by some with reducing the carnage.
But Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, said law enforcement officials who investigated a recent mass shooting at a Walmart said the "good guys" with guns who tried to intervene only made things more difficult.
One Republican, Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy, joined Democrats in voting against the legislation.
Under the legislation, concealed pistol license holders could get an endorsement on their licenses exempting them from "no gun zone" restrictions if they can show they have taken at least eight hours of additional training or are a certified firearms instructor.
Senate Bills 584-586 wouldn't limit the ability of private property owners to ban guns on their premises. It also wouldn't bar universities from using their constitutional powers to regulate the carrying of guns on their campuses.
And it would close a loophole under which concealed pistol license holders could bring guns into schools and other no-go zones, provided they carried the guns openly.
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Democrats ridiculed the legislation as "reckless," "tone deaf" and another attack on local control.
Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, called it the "pistols in pre-schools" legislation."
Democrats proposed a series of amendments, including one from Hertel to ban people who are on the no-fly list from getting a concealed pistol license.
"If you're too dangerous for Southwest, you should be too dangerous for Smith & Wesson," Hertel said.
That amendment was rejected along a party line vote, along with amendments to cover any increased liability insurance costs for schools that arise from the legislation and to reimburse teachers for the cost of buying body armor.
At Tuesday's committee hearing, the bills won support from groups such as the National Rifle Association and the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners.
Among those speaking against the bills were representatives of the Michigan Association of School Boards, the Michigan Education Association and Moms Demand Action.
Also opposed was the Michigan Open Carry group, because of the new restrictions on open-carry of firearms.
It's not clear when the House will take up the legislation, but it will not be until after Thanksgiving.
The legislation would allow schools to prohibit students, both minors and adults, from carrying concealed weapons in schools. And it would allow schools to prohibit employees from carrying concealed weapons in schools.
Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed similar legislation in 2012, just four days after a horrific shooting in Newtown, Conn., when a heavily armed man muscled his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 first-graders and six adults.
Snyder hasn't publicly taken a position on the latest legislation.
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