During the midst of the media hoopla over the presidential election, the state Legislature slid through an amendment to Michigans concealed weapons law that will drastically increase the number of concealed guns on the streets.
The concealed weapons law originally stated applicants for concealed weapon permits must demonstrate a need to carry concealed weapons and must renew the permits every three years. Now the law, which will take effect July 1, allows permits to anyone who is at least 21 years of age and without a felony record, repeat drunken driving offenses or a history of mental illness.
Also, the applicants must take a gun safety course and they are not allowed to take concealed weapons into schools, day care centers, playgrounds, bars, casinos, large entertainment facilities, hospitals or classrooms.
By adding a $1 million price tag to the law - which is attached to pay for trigger locks and a database of all concealed weapon permit holders - politicians were able to skirt around a voter referendum because referendums are not allowed on spending measures.
This was essential to the bills passage, because a December poll by EPIC/MRA of Lansing showed 55 percent of Michigan voters opposed a change in the concealed weapons law while only 37 percent favored it.
Opponents of the law claim adding the spending measure may have been illegal and they plan on putting the law before voters in 2002. The Michigan State Police predict this relaxation of the original law will double the number of people carrying concealed weapons to about 125,000.
Critics of the law include law enforcement, legal and medical groups such as the Michigan State Police, Michigan Prosecuting Attorney Association, Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, Detroit Police Department, Michigan Medical Society and Attorney General Jennifer Granholm.
In the center of the political elections, the latest political trend was the denouncement of the movie, television and music industries because of the possible connection to the high level of violence in society, and the media abundance of violent images and lyrics. However, now that the elections are over, Michigan politicians have ignored the connection between the availability of guns and the high level of violence in society by passing this new law.
Card-carrying members of the National Rifle Association and pro-gun advocates defend the new law with the right to bear arms and the need for self-defense rhetoric. But the threat of the concealed gun holders developing a cowboy mentality, in which a hostile dispute can erupt beyond the average fistfight and into a reason to whip out a .38-caliber Magnum, is an endangerment to the publics safety.
Also, given that thousands of deaths each year are due to accidental shootings in this country, increasing the number of people carrying around guns will most likely increase the number of accidental shootings. Jane or Joe Citizen should not be able to carry guns into public places where their guns accidentally or intentionally being fired can harm innocent individuals.
I would love it if the possession of handgun and assault weapons was only legally available to law enforcement and military personnel. Yet I realize this ideology would be unfair to law-abiding gun enthusiasts and, most importantly, the Second Amendment, which is unlikely to be repealed.
However, I believe the right to bear arms is a right that should be limited to ones own property; as long as that person is of sound mind and without a violent criminal record. The only exception to this rule should be people who have an acceptable reason for the need of a concealed gun, such as a person who is being stalked and has a restraining order against their attacker.
Ashley Bell, a journalism freshman, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.