Michigan would loosen licensing restrictions on air guns and limit local governments' ability to set their own regulations, except when BB, pellet and paintball guns are being used by those less than 16 years old, under legislation lawmakers approved Tuesday.
The bills are backed by the National Rifle Association, which says Michigan is one of just four states to classify most pellet and air guns as firearms — an "unduly burdensome restraint," according to the group. The main measure won final approval from the Republican-controlled Senate and was sent to GOP Gov. Rick Snyder for his expected signature.
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The change would extend a state law that prohibits municipalities from taxing or regulating the ownership, sale or possession of pistols and other firearms to also include "pneumatic" guns that fire pellets by spring, gas or air.
Before the Republican-led House passed the bill 71-35 last week — it had been initially approved 28-10 in the Senate — a critic pointed to recent police shootings that started with reports of people with guns, including the killing last month of a 12-year-old boy carrying a pellet gun in Cleveland. The officers said they thought the victims had real guns.
Airsoft guns are sold with orange tips that are supposed to distinguish them from actual firearms. There was no orange tip on the Cleveland boy's gun.
"We haven't looked at the big picture here. Whether or not we want to say that we are the only ones that have purview over the regulation of toy guns — you can't strip away the locals before we do our work here," said Rep. Doug Geiss, a Taylor Democrat who said communities might want to outlaw the orange tip from being colored over. "It's my fear that by passing this, another small child will be mistakenly shot."
But Rep. Kevin Cotter, a Mt. Pleasant Republican, countered that the legislation would let counties, cities, townships and villages require children under 16 to be supervised by a parent or adult — except on private property if the children have permission of a parent and the property owner.
The bill would not prevent local regulation of criminal conduct with an air gun, and municipalities could pass ordinances to forbid people from pointing, waving or displaying such a gun in a threatening manner.
Cities and townships also could bar the guns' use in "heavily populated" areas except at authorized target ranges and on private property — if care is taken to prevent pellets or paintballs from crossing the property line.
Bills that would redefine what a firearm is had more overwhelming support in the Legislature. The NRA has said the proposed definition would align with federal law, relieving Michiganders and out-of-state businesses from "outdated and unduly burdensome restraints on the transfer, purchase and possession of most air guns."
Senate Bills 964-966 and 979: http://1.usa.gov/1qWNaTF
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