Traverse City Record-Eagle

Michigan

January 24, 2013

Snyder: Top priority should be economy, not guns

He also wants more attention paid to mental health

LANSING (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder said Wednesday that lawmakers should focus on improving the state's economy, not passing gun legislation that includes exempting Michigan-made guns and ammunition from federal regulations.

The Republican governor told The Associated Press that the GOP-led Legislature also should look at improving mental health treatment to solve larger problems related to gun violence. He spoke after a Senate committee approved the package of bills and sent it to the full chamber for consideration.

"I would encourage the Legislature to really stay focused on job-related issues," said Snyder, who vetoed legislation last month that would have allowed concealed weapons in churches, schools and day care centers and called for a more "thoughtful review" that includes school emergency policies and mental health-related issues.

"I don't view spending a lot of time on gun legislation ... as the key driver to really solving many of these issues," he said. "Let's talk about mental health, let's talk about people having a job, creating stable families."

The "Michigan Firearms Freedom Act" passed the Senate committee 3-1 along party lines. Democratic Sen. Steve Bieda of Warren cast the lone dissenting vote, though Lawton Republican Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker joined him in expressing concern about whether legislation bucking federal regulations would be deemed unconstitutional.

Bieda also called the legislation a "knee-jerk reaction to some things that are happening at the federal level," referring to gun control recommendations in the wake of last month's mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and other incidents.

"Taxpayers are going to be paying for a lawsuit," he said.

Bill sponsor Phil Pavlov, a Republican from St. Clair, said the federal government's response to such shootings represents a "steady eroding of our rights under the 2nd Amendment."

"Let the state of Michigan determine what's important for our gun owners," Pavlov said. "We have the right to regulate our firearms here."

Another bill heading to the Senate would call for making gun purchases and licensing information confidential, with information available only to law enforcement and exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests.

The bill comes after a New York newspaper published the names and address of local gun owners after the Newtown shooting.

The bills underscore a battle between those who believe the government isn't doing enough to counteract gun violence and those who argue it's going too far. Most of those who spoke at the hearing espoused the second view, including Rockford resident Isabelle Terry, who identifies herself as a "homemaker" and National Rifle Association member for more than a decade.

"I believe in the 2nd Amendment," said Terry, saying the threat of lawsuits shouldn't dissuade lawmakers from acting. "The price of freedom is worth it."

Critics cited concerns about closing channels to public information and a lack of regard for victims of gun violence.

"I would like to see gun victims get the same rights and respect as gun owners," said Rebecca Hammond of Ferndale. "This has gone too far."

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