Gov. Rick Snyder could take a first step toward regaining some respect — if not trust — by telling pro-gun extremists he will veto gun bills that would challenge federal law and make information about who is licensed to own a handgun secret.
The so-called "Michigan Firearms Freedom Act," which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 3-1 Wednesday after a very brief public hearing, would exempt Michigan-made guns and ammunition from federal firearm regulations — even though there are no gun manufacturers in Michigan, and even though federal law trumps state law every time.
The two other bills would exempt gun licensing information from the Freedom of Information Act and exempt licensing requirements for some federal firearms dealers.
Snyder said lawmakers should focus on improving the state's economy and helping at-risk children, not passing gun legislation.
That's sounds more like the pragmatic, non-ideological politician Snyder had portrayed himself to be in his first two years in office. That image came crashing down, of course, when Snyder signed right-to-work legislation passed by the lame-duck Legislature — with no debate and no public hearings — even though the governor had said for two years that right-to-work wasn't on his agenda.
"I would encourage the Legislature to really stay focused on job-related issues," Snyder said Wednesday. "I don't view spending a lot of time on gun legislation ... as the key driver to really solving many of these issues ..."
"Let's talk about mental health, let's talk about people having a job, creating stable families," he said.
The proposed gun bills are nonsense, of course. Sponsor Phil Pavlov, a Republican from St. Clair, seemed not to be aware — or perhaps not care — that federal law supersedes Michigan law where the two conflict.
"We have the right to regulate our firearms here," he claimed. Wrong.
Just as troubling is how the Judicary Committee acted. It held a very brief public hearing (just long enough for Phillip Hofmeister, president of the Michigan Open Carry organization, to testify while packing a Springfield XDM semi-automatic handgun) then sent the bills to the full Senate.
That's a process that often takes days or weeks, usually with time set aside for pubic comment. The committee picked up where the lame-duck session ended, when Republican lawmakers passed dozens of bills with zero public input.
Snyder had no problem warning union leaders not to go forward with a ballot proposal last fall that would have given constitutional protection to collective bargaining, or in signing the right to work legislation.
We'll see if he has the courage of his convictions when it comes to a face-off with his party's pro-gun faction.