LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – The case of People of Michigan v Kimberly Erin Langston has brought Michigan’s concealed carry law under scrutiny, with Ms. Langston arguing that it infringes upon her constitutional rights. She has petitioned the Michigan Supreme Court, contending that MCL 750.227 violates the Second and Fourteenth Amendments.

Langston’s attorney, Roland Lindh, who represents her pro bono in her criminal case, seeks to have MCL 750.227 declared unconstitutional and charges against Langston dismissed, citing her constitutional right to bear arms.

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Michigan’s Attorney General and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan have filed amicus curiae briefs supporting the state’s position.

What happened?

The case began on April 30, 2023, when South Haven Police Officer Cooper Carns stopped a vehicle for traffic violations. Officer Tyler DeBacher, assisting with the stop, found a pistol in a purse on the passenger side floorboard, which Langston claimed as hers. She was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon without a valid license.

Langston was charged with violating MCL 750.227 by a Van Buren County prosecutor. She challenged the constitutionality of the statute, but Judge Arthur H. Clarke III disagreed, sending the case to circuit court. Judge Kathleen M. Brickley upheld the charge, citing a Supreme Court footnote from the New York State Rifle & Pistol Assoc., Inc. v Bruen decision, which suggested “shall-issue” licensing regimes are generally constitutional.

The difference between “shall issue” and “may issue.”

In the context of concealed carry permits, “shall issue” means authorities must issue a permit if the applicant meets legal requirements like background checks and training. “May issue” allows authorities discretion, even if basic criteria are met, often requiring applicants to demonstrate a specific need for carrying a concealed weapon.

After the circuit court’s ruling, Langston appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals, which upheld the lower courts’ decisions. She is now seeking an interlocutory appeal from the Michigan Supreme Court, a type of appeal that occurs during a trial before a final decision is reached.

The Michigan Supreme Court is not obligated to hear the case and has no deadline to decide. The circuit court can, at any time, proceed with the criminal case unless they are ordered by the state court not to do so. The case would rely on the facts rather than the constitutional issue. Langston would retain the right to appeal if convicted, with the potential of escalating the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Historical context of Supreme Court decision is the focus of the case.

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Lindh’s argument centers on the historical context of the Second Amendment, claiming Michigan’s concealed carry law contradicts the historical precedent upheld in Bruen. He asserts that at the time the Second Amendment was adopted, restrictions on firearm possession typically applied to enslaved individuals and certain groups to prevent public disturbances, but did not prevent ‘full’ citizens from carrying concealed weapons for peaceful purposes. Thus, he argues, Michigan’s licensing requirement lacks historical basis.

Lindh’s brief states, “The burden falls on the government to justify its regulation by demonstrating that it is consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.” He compares carrying a firearm in a car with a purse to carrying one in a carriage with a satchel, arguing that colonial society did not prohibit peaceful concealed firearm carry, and thus modern prohibitions are inconsistent with historical practices.

The argument.

Lindh contends that under the Second and Fourteenth Amendments, MCL 750.227 unlawfully restricts the right to bear arms by criminalizing unlicensed concealed carry. He argues that the lower courts misapplied the historical tradition test from Bruen, which invalidates any modern firearm regulation without historical precedent from the time of the Constitution’s framing.

Attorney points to “illogical” Supreme Court footnote.

Lindh states the Bruen decision itself set a clear standard: any firearm regulation must be historically based to be constitutional.

He adds that the lower courts relied on a Bruen footnote supporting “shall-issue” licensing regimes, but Lindh argues this contradicts the case’s main holding that firearm regulation must be historically rooted. He deems the reliance on this footnote as a misapplication of the Supreme Court’s ruling and calls the footnote in the decision “illogical” and contradictory to the ruling itself.

How other courts have interpreted Bruen case.

The Bruen decision’s footnote inclusion has influenced numerous court rulings, striking down modern firearm regulations such as prohibitions on firearm possession by certain non-violent felons and those under restraining orders, demonstrating the broad application of the historical tradition test.

Lindh points out that before Bruen, constitutional cases also considered the “ends means” test which is a method to evaluate whether the means (methods or actions) chosen to achieve a particular end (goal or objective) are appropriate, effective, and ethical. However, Bruen shifted focus solely to historical analysis, except for the “shall-issue” footnote, which he argues is inconsistent with historical practices.

Michigan Supreme Court decision could reshape legal landscape for decades.

Langston’s challenge could set a significant precedent, reflecting broader judicial trends influenced by Bruen. If the Michigan Supreme Court reviews the case, it will determine if MCL 750.227 aligns with historical firearm regulations under the Second Amendment. The outcome could impact Langston’s case and shape future gun control laws in Michigan and potentially across the United States, affecting the balance between public safety and constitutional rights.