Ottawa mulls paying for concealed carry gun permits for county workers
- Ottawa County Commissioners are considering paying for concealed carry handgun training and licensing for employees
- Ottawa would be the first Michigan county to use taxpayer funds for CPLs
- The county administrator estimated the cost to taxpayers at $2,000 annually
One of Michigan’s most politically conservative counties may soon pay for handgun training and concealed carry permits for county government employees.
If approved by the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners, the proposal, introduced Tuesday, would use taxpayer money for concealed pistol license classes, CPL registration and license renewal costs, for any of the 1,271 county employees who want to carry a concealed handgun.
It appears to be the first time a Michigan county has considered paying for gun training and concealed carry licenses, said Derek Melot, communications director for the Michigan Association of Counties, a nonpartisan organization representing county commissioners in Michigan’s 83 counties.
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The group is “not familiar with any other Michigan county that has adopted a program with these details or has considered one,” Melot told Bridge Michigan.
Ottawa County voted for Donald Trump over Joe Biden by a 22-point margin (60-38) in the 2020 presidential election in a state that, overall, supported the Democratic candidate. In 2022 elections, the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners was taken over by members of a conservative activist group called Ottawa Impact, ousting more moderate Republicans. Since then, measures either taken or proposed by the commissioners, including trying to remove the county’s health director who supported mask mandates in the early months of the pandemic, have drawn national attention.
Ottawa County Administrator John Gibbs proposed the CPL funding at the commission’s Tuesday meeting. Gibbs did not return a phone call or email for comment, but in the written proposal to the commission, Gibbs wrote that “given the importance of self-defense and that the scientific evidence shows that increases in CPL adoption result in decreases in violent crime, this policy will benefit the community and encourage county employees to engage in responsible, legal firearm ownership.”
Gibbs didn’t cite what scientific evidence he was referring to. A 2022 study by Johns Hopkins University found that the average rate of assaults with firearms increased in the first 10 years after 34 states relaxed restrictions on civilians carrying concealed firearms in public.
Gibbs estimated the annual cost to county taxpayers of paying for CPL training, registration and renewal at $2,000 annually. The cost of training courses, which are required for a CPL license, are at least $100. Application fees are $100, and a renewal license, good for five years, is $115.
Tom Lambert, of Michigan Open Carry, a gun rights advocacy group, was unfamiliar with any counties that have considered paying for CPLs.
“The gun community would probably see this as a good thing, to be armed and trained,” Lambert said. “Whether it is a good use of government money, I’m not going to weigh in on.”
In Michigan, slightly more than one in 10 adults have a license to carry a concealed handgun, as CPLs have exploded in popularity in the past decade.
The number of residents with concealed-carry licenses jumped 153 percent in Ottawa county in the past nine years, with nearby Kent County increasing by 147 percent, and Muskegon County by 105 percent.
There are currently about 800,000 Michiganders with CPLs, which allow the license holder to carry a handgun in a concealed manner, such as under clothing, in a pocket or in a glove box of a vehicle. A CPL license holder can take a handgun most places, with notable exceptions such as banks, courts, schools, bars and stadiums.
In Ottawa County, 9.7 percent of residents age 21 and older have a concealed carry permit. It’s not clear how many of the 11 county commissioners have CPLs.
Commission Chairperson Joe Moss returned a request for comment on the proposal after this story was initially published. Moss told Bridge in an email that he is "thankful the Administration is looking for ways to proactively support employees, promote the vision of the county, and encourage responsible gun ownership."
Commissioner Roger Bergman, one of 10 Republicans on the 11-person board, told Bridge he isn’t a fan of the proposal.
“I don’t know we should be paying for employees to get their own firearm licenses,” Bergman said. “Why would we do that?”
The proposal will be discussed at a planning and policy committee meeting of the commissioners Tuesday. “I expect it will be a long meeting,” Bergman said.
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