Open Carry is the Law in Michigan: MCRGO Frequently Asked Gun Owner Questions
Q: What is the MCL number for a person being able to openly carry a gun in Michigan?
A: Your question refers to the Michigan Compiled Laws numbering system. All of Michigan’s statutes are available online at www.Legislature.MI.gov. They are organized in a numbering system and all of them begin with “MCL.”
The answer is that the right to carry a gun openly is not actually part of the MCL system. Rather, it is laid out in Article I, Section 6 of the Michigan Constitution, which states: “Every person has a right to keep and bear arms for the defense of himself and the state.” This clause is more clearly worded than the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Because the Michigan provision, adopted almost two centuries after the adoption of the US Constitution, uses the phrase, “defense of himself,” there has never been the level of debate regarding whether the right was an individual right that there was regarding the Second Amendment. For many years during the 20th Century, there was confusion in some jurisdictions brought on by a misunderstanding of the term “Militia” in the Second Amendment. That confusion was cleared up, for the most part, by the US Supreme Court’s decision in the Heller case recently.
For quite some time in Michigan, local units of government attempted to restrict the right to bear arms by passing local ordinances purporting to prohibit open carry. These laws were rendered void in 1990 with the enactment of MCL 123.1102, which became effective in March of 1991 and states: “A local unit of government shall not impose special taxation on, enact or enforce any ordinance or regulation pertaining to, or regulate in any other manner the ownership, registration, purchase, sale, transfer, transportation, or possession of pistols or other firearms, ammunition for pistols or other firearms, or components of pistols or other firearms, except as otherwise provided by federal law or a law of this state.” This means that the Michigan Constitution, and state statutes, control firearms in Michigan and no city, township, or county can make its own gun laws.
There is another concept in law called the Rule of Lenity, which stands for the proposition that whatever is not prohibited by law is allowed. So, the constitutional right, combined with no state statute prohibiting open carry means that open carry is lawful.
If the gun is concealed, it is subject to the crime of carrying a concealed weapon, commonly referred to as “CCW,” which specifies a prison term of up to five years for carrying a concealed weapon without a license. The only concealed weapon for which a license is available in Michigan is a pistol. So, someone who has a Concealed Pistol License (CPL) may conceal a pistol and not be guilty of the crime of “CCW.”
Open carry is the answer when a CPL holder inadvertently exposes his pistol. As long as he is in a place where he, and his pistol are allowed to be, and he is not threatening a fellow citizen without justification, the fact that the pistol was momentarily unconcealed is of no legal consequence.
Steve Dulan (www.StevenWDulan.com) is a member of the Board of Directors of the MCRGO and the MCRGO Foundation, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the MCRGO Foundation. He is an attorney in private practice in East Lansing and Adjunct Professor of firearms law at The Thomas M. Cooley Law School. as well as an NRA Life Member.
The Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners is a non-profit, non-partisan organization. Formed from just eight people in 1996, we now have thousands of members and numerous affiliated clubs across the state. We’re growing larger and more effective every day.
Our mission statement is: “Promoting safe use and ownership of firearms through education, litigation, and legislation” Visit: www.mcrgo.org