Where can you carry a gun in Michigan? It’s complicated. (How much? Take our quiz)

To understand how confusing Michigan’s gun laws are, look no further than your neighborhood elementary school.

Schools are designated as “weapon-free” zones by state law. So no guns.

But wait. There is an exception in the weapon-free zone law for individuals who hold licenses that allow them to carry a concealed weapon. So those with conceal carry licenses –  one in 12 adults in Michigan and one in seven in some northern Michigan counties –  can carry a handgun beneath their coat into a school, right?

Not really. The concealed carry law prohibits carrying concealed weapons into a school.

OK. So no guns in schools?

Wrong again.

While the concealed carry law prohibits concealed weapons, it doesn’t forbid individuals with concealed carry licenses from carrying weapons carried in open sight. The result: anyone with a concealed carry license can wear a pistol on their hip in a school, as long as the gun isn’t hidden.

But that’s not the whole story either.

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that schools can set their own policies on guns. School districts can ban guns from their buildings, and anyone who brings in a gun can be asked to leave, and if they don’t, could be charged with trespassing.

Of course, that means there may be a different gun rule in your neighborhood elementary than in an elementary a few miles away.

Welcome to the world of Michigan gun laws, where you can carry a concealed handgun into a restaurant that serves alcohol but not a tavern that serves food, and into a small-town movie theater, but maybe not into a multi-screen theater complex.

The Michigan Legislature is considering eliminating the need to get a license to carry a concealed weapon. A group of bills passed the House of Representatives in June and are awaiting a hearing in the Senate.

You can read an analysis of the bills by the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency here.

If passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, the bills would eliminate the need to get a license, and the training and fee now required to get a license to carry a concealed handgun. Currently, residents can carry an unconcealed weapon without a license.

A dozen states allow concealed carry of weapons without a permit.

The bills would not change where Michigan residents can and cannot carry a concealed weapon, just how many people could do it.

Here’s a primer on the confusing state of the law:

What’s the difference between open carry and concealed carry?

Anyone can carry their own registered firearm as long as it is visible to others. An individual with a concealed carry license can carry a handgun (but not a gun with a long barrel such as a rifle) under clothing. There are some differences in where individuals with concealed carry licenses and those without licenses can have guns.

Do many people have concealed carry permits?

According to the most recent data from the Michigan State Police, 617,000 Michigan residents age 21 or older have a concealed carry license. That’s one in 11.7 adults across the state. The rate ranges from one in every 6.7 adults in Keweenaw County in the Upper Peninsula, to one in every 19.5 adults in Kent County.

Generally, a higher percentage of residents have concealed carry permits in the Upper Peninsula.

Why is licensing an issue?

Gun advocates argue that since people can carry an exposed handgun most places in the state without paying for a license, the concealed carry license amounts to a “coat tax” – a price paid to be able to wear a coat over a gun.

The legislation is opposed by the Michigan Sheriffs Association, which cited safety concerns for officers and the public.

What about crime?

Critics feared Michigan would become like the Wild West when it became legal to carry a concealed weapon in 2001. That hasn’t happened. In fact, crime and shootings have decreased statewide. Has the law made us safer? Experts disagree, saying there’s a host of factors. Likewise, suicide rates tend to be higher in counties with more concealed weapons permits than the state average, but there’s no consensus on the cause.

Legal here, but not there?

There are numerous quirks in the laws. For example, an individual with a concealed pistol license can walk into the state Capitol, but not into courtrooms in county courthouses; they can walk across a college campus, but not walk into campus buildings. And someone can carry an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle under a trench coat without a concealed carry license because Michigan’s law only addresses handguns.

“That’s the absurdity of all these just arbitrarily chosen places,” said Rick Ector, Rick’s Firearm Academy of Detroit.

Those inconsistencies aren’t addressed by current legislation.

Private property owners can still tell you to take a hike

While the holder of a concealed carry license can carry a concealed weapon into a restaurant, for example, and not violate gun laws, the restaurant manager may have different ideas. A private property owner has the right to ban weapons. If you refuse to leave, the property owner can call the police and have you arrested for trespass.

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Kevin Grand
Tue, 08/15/2017 - 7:23am

The Michigan Constitution is VERY clear on this matter.

Art 1, Sec. 6. Every person has a right to keep and bear arms for the defense of himself and the

Does anyone see any exemptions contained within that easy to read sentence?

Constitutional rights supersedes laws on the books. Anything that infringes on that right (with the notable exception of private property rights) should be null & void.

Rev. Karen Blatt
Tue, 08/15/2017 - 8:49am

Are religious buildings considered private property?
Thank you. Pastor Karen Blatt

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 11:39am

Yes. Absolutely.
Now comes the fun part. Anybody w/cpl can OPEN carry into church. Church can't hide behind PFZ law. Now if church don't want gun on the property, church representative has to confront and tell open carrier to leave. If open carrier dont leave, it becomes a trespass, not gun charge.

Neil Sikora
Tue, 08/15/2017 - 9:05am

Add to the confusion: Places of worship, voting (polling) locations, and voting locations that are in places of worship.

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 11:41am

Incorrect. If a whatever becomes a polling place, all PFZ protections they have are lost while acting as a polling location.

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 9:48am

Why isn't this treated like transsexuals choosing which bathroom they use? Since no one wants to touch that. If they're just quietly doing their thing, who knows? No drama.

Mike Nattrass
Tue, 08/15/2017 - 3:49pm

Movie theaters, there are "multi-plex's" that concealed is allowed, seating capacity!

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 10:13pm

We have lost our collective minds! How can we use the constitution to justify this convoluted and misguided legislated framework governing the carrying of weapons. Do we really believe that this is what the framers of the constitution meant by "keep and bear arms" 200+ years ago?

Bob William
Tue, 01/01/2019 - 7:16pm

Yes, I do believe that to keep and bear arms wasn't meant untill someone said I'm scared.. More than likely 2 out of 3 of your neighbors have a firearm in their house. It's affected you how?

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 1:09pm

Even our corrupt higher courts have acknowledged that "laws" that are too complex violate our rights to Fair Notice and Due Process.

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 1:16pm

By the way, can PPO's tell us what we can and can't say? What we can and can't wear? Can they search us without a warrant? Could they press civil charges against us and deny us our right to a trial by jury? What other unalienable, guaranteed rights can they violate without consequences? If they do deny our rights, are they then responsible for any injury or damages which may have otherwise been avoided? Does, "Supreme Law of the Land" just mean publicly owned property? Just brainstorming?

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 3:09pm

Gun Free Zones are killing zones..
Mindless gun-free zones are what mass shootings have in common. They are killing zones, free from good guys with guns. That’s why the Aurora movie theater killer chose the more distant theater where guns were not allowed and thus where he wouldn’t have to worry about his plan being foiled.

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 3:12pm

Bridge - a site of moderation

The TRUTH about the "supremacy clause" - our Constitution does not delegate to the government authority to restrict our arms, ammunition, regulate firearms dealers, do background checks, etc. The national government may not lawfully circumvent this restriction by means of a treaty wherein the signatory governments agree to disarm their Citizens or Subjects.

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 3:14pm

The Left's War on Comment Sections..
The internet was born open but is becoming closed everywhere. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the rush to shutter readers’ comments sections at major news organisations. Cheered on by intolerant, snobbish cultural elites, news organisations from The Verge to The Daily Beast have, in recent months, informed their readers to take their opinions elsewhere.
There was a time when comments sections were seen as the next step in a golden age of democratised communication, particularly by the political Left (they are all leftists).

Sat, 09/16/2017 - 9:29pm

That's before trolling took over comments

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 10:40pm

Arms control of the people is not an enumerated power!

video on arms, here it is: https://vimeo.com/60944105

State concealed carry laws which require a "permit" is an idea crafted in the pits of h ell. The real purpose is to register gun owners! People think it is so cool to have a permit for concealed carry - they don't understand that it is like the free sample of heroin.

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 10:40pm

There are over 370 "mental disorders" listed in the latest version of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.) The list includes "Tobacco Addiction Disorder" among other equally mundane and ridiculous so-called "mental illnesses."

If the DSM is the standard by which politicians wishes to remove our rights to own guns, then I'd guess 90% of the American people could probably be classified with a mental disorder of one kind or another.


Brian Seipel
Mon, 08/21/2017 - 5:45am

Ron, Michigan does not issue a Concealed Weapons Permit to anyone. It is never the case, even with the military, that more than just pistols can be concealed. With the education I received, it was made abundantly clear that it is not a Permit to carry weapons, but a Concealed Pistol License. It is an important distinction.

cherster marx
Sat, 09/09/2017 - 12:03pm

You can carry a loaded anything, as long as it's not in the vicinity of a politician.

Peter E McAlpine
Mon, 05/07/2018 - 8:17pm

What about a gun properly unloaded and secured in the trunk of your car while in the parking lot of a school gun free zone if you have a CPL? Or don't have a CPL?

Sat, 06/16/2018 - 1:02pm

As long as you have a student at that school it's ok to have a gun as long as it stays in the vehicle.

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 10:37pm


Sun, 12/16/2018 - 3:03pm

So what can a person, who is 18, buy in terms of guns? I can not find anywhere what guns they can buy.

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 12:34pm

Why is the correct answer for "Multi-screen movie theatre complex", no?
There are plenty of small multi-screen movie theaters that have a total combined seating of under 2,500 people. So, the answer would still be "yes" for those, correct?

Mike Swierbut
Thu, 12/12/2019 - 6:08pm

I know I can carry my gun (concealed) legally in a fanny pack, but can I carry my gun legally (concealed) in a small brief case (designed to hold a lap top computer) ? This brief case has a handle, zippers and does not print the shape of the weapon.