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A tradition of guns

6K concealed permits in Northeast Michigan

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Local concealed-carry license instructor Bill Scheuner on Wednesday holsters his pistol, which he conceals while conducting business in his store in Hubbard Lake. Scheuner said that, as the gun control debate continues, more people, especially women, are taking his class. Alpena County has more than 2,300 active concealed pistol licenses.

ALPENA — Wherever you go in Northeast Michigan, you are probably not far from someone who is carrying a concealed firearm.

And recent trends indicate that more people in the region are arming themselves — especially women.

The Michigan State Police says there are 2,346 active concealed carry permits in Alpena County, and an additional 1,667 which need renewal. Of the 4,083 applications considered by the state through Sept. 3, 41 were denied, 57 are pending, eight were revoked and 12 suspended.

Alcona County has 1,346 approved permits and an additional 985 which have expired but can be renewed. Montmorency County has 1,136 legal permits and 824 which are five years old or older and need to be updated. Presque Isle County has 1,210 active permits and 782 that need to be renewed.

That data does not reflect the number of people who exercise their Second Amendment right to carry firearms openly, which does not require a permit.

Overall, 32 permits have been revoked across the four-county region, and 86 applicants were denied permits after background checks.

Michigan State Police Lt. John Grimshaw, commander of the Alpena Post, said the number of concealed pistol licenses doesn’t include police officers, who often carry their service weapon while off-duty, and doesn’t include visitors from other counties who have guns on them. He said people need to remember that, just because someone has a permit, it doesn’t mean they carry everywhere they go.

Given the number of licenses that are active in the area, and when police officers and out of town residents are added, there are likely people who have guns on them at stores, restaurants, and other places, Grimshaw said. He said guns are viewed differently in Northeastern Michigan than in other places, and are a part of the region’s history and upbringing.

“This area has a long history of hunting, sport-shooting and sort of a right of passage where guns are handed down from generation to generation,” he said. “It is accepted as a way of life. Families here are familiar with guns and grew up around guns.”

Gun-related crimes in the area are rare, Grimshaw said.

“People have been good, and I hope they take classes and are taught well,” Grimshaw said. “That being said, there are people out there whose licenses are expired and, if we pull you over and you are carrying, with the license expired, you will be charged for a crime.”

In the last several years, the number of permits issued in Alpena County has slowed, from 418 new permits issued in 2014 to 172 in 2018. As of Sept. 1, 102 new permits have been issued. Although it may seem fewer people are applying for permits, the number of people who are taking concealed carry classes is on the rise.

Bill Scheuner, a licensed National Rifle Association instructor in Hubbard Lake, said demand for classes began to increase about 10 years ago. He has had to add courses and there is still a waiting list of people wanting to attend.

Scheuner said people from all walks of life are taking classes and becoming concealed-carry license holders. He said nurses often take the classes together, as do teachers. Lawyers and business people want the option to carry a concealed firearm, as well. More couples are taking the class together, Scheuner said, and he has noticed more families taking the course together, if the children are 21 years old or older.

Just because a person completes the class, it doesn’t gaurentee that they will be granted a license, or even apply for one, he said.

He said the biggest trend he has noticed the last several years is an increase in the number of women taking the class and applying for a licence. Many of his female students have husbands who are away from home often or they are single with children they want to protect. He’s also seen a lot of first-time gun buyers over the last few years as well.

“The amount of women we are seeing is incredible,” he said. “For the last class we had 14 women and only four men. A lot of ladies have went through incidents that have propelled them to take the class.”

Eric Watkins assists Scheuner with classes and helps teach Michigan and federal law pertaining to concealed carry, such as where it is legal to conceal and what actions a person can take to avoid getting into trouble if they are forced to use their firearm.

He said being able to conceal a pistol comes with a lot of responsibility, and the decision to become licensed to do so should not be made lightly.

“Having a concealed pistol license is a major responsibility and people need to know that,” he said. “It’s not just about the fact that they can carry a gun, but that they are now able to take a person’s life in a lethal force situation. I can’t stress enough about how big of a responsibility that is. Nobody wants it to come to that, but it is always a possibility and you need to be able to make difficult and educated decisions, if it does.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.

Concealed pistol licenses

A look at the number of concealed-carry licenses in Northeast Michigan.

County Active Expired

Alpena 2,346 1,637

Alcona 1,346 985

Montmorency 1,136 824

Presque Isle 1,210 782

Source Michigan State Police