MI gun sales fall as safety courses rise

Apr 3, 2017

The Michigan House is considering a series of bills that would alter the state’s firearms licensing system.  The legislation would remove the penalty against people who carry concealed pistols without a state-issued permit.  Supporters say Michigan citizens don’t need a license to exercise their Second Amendment right.


When the Michigan Senate voted to repeal a law penalizing gun retailers who fail to keep a registry of their sales, the vote fell across party lines.  Led by the GOP-majority, the bill passed to the state House.  

Democrats like Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr (D-East Lansing) argued a firearms registry is a vital crime-solving tool.

“When there is a crime, not having a registry does make it harder to actually go back and figure out what happened for law enforcement,” Hertel says.

These days, there seem to be fewer names on those registries.

So far this year, firearms and ammunition sales are down in Michigan, and experts say that comes as no surprise.  History shows the numbers tend to sag when more NRA-friendly presidential administrations take office.  And despite our strong outdoor hunting culture, Michigan’s gun ownership rate ranks in the lower half of the 50 states.

The demographic that’s buying guns now is shifting.

“The new crowd now is a younger crowd that’s buying guns,” says Michigan Association of Firearms Retailers president Glenn Duncan, who represents some 2,600 gun shops in the state.  “They’re now in their 30’s, and that’s changed from a few years ago.  There were more senior citizens, and more senior citizens had more time for classes, whereas this age group is really busy with their families.”

Fewer gun sales also means fewer people are applying for concealed pistol licenses.  CPL applicants must first pass a firearms safety course before they get their permit.  These days, Duncan sees a paradox going on there.

“There’s more classes going on with fewer members in a class,” Duncan explains.  “Before, they’d have 20 or 30 in a class, and now they’ll have 10 to 15.”

Duncan says he sees most shooters at the range enjoying a pastime, versus practicing self-defense.  He says the class he offers through his Bay City dealership is among the most stringent in the state.  Duncan believes in participants taking the time to focus.

Michael Galella agrees.  He manages the Demmer Shooting Sports Education and Training Center in East Lansing.  

“It’s the attitude which translates to the right mental preparedness,” says Galella.

The facility operated by Michigan State University does offer concealed pistol license courses.  When Galella talks about the proper attitude, he also means that of his instructors.  He’s seen clients come to his range after receiving sub-par training experiences somewhere else.

“Honestly, we have people that come to us with concealed pistol licenses who re-take the class because they felt like they didn’t get anything out of it,” he says.  “Sometimes I hear horror stories where the class is taught only in a couple of hours, when frankly, it’s an eight-hour class.”

Interestingly, what Galella has seen counters Glenn Duncan’s observations.  He says in the last two years, CPL courses at the Demmer Center have been selling out.

“On average, we would only have about six to eight people in our classes,” says Galella.  “Now we’re selling out at max; we’re teaching 16 (people) at a time.  In fact, we’ve been selling out at a rate of two months in advance.  That’s attributed to the violent crimes that are happening outside in the real world.”

Galella notes more women are taking his CPL class than ever before...as well as an older population.

“I mean, in their 70s, some in their 80s,” he says.  “To me, it’s sad because these people went all through their lives without ever finding the need to have a concealed pistol license.  Now, they feel endangered or at risk, and they want to go out and get it.”

According to the Michigan State Police, more than 600,000 concealed pistol licenses have been issued in the state since 2003.  In mid-Michigan, Genesee County logs the state’s fourth highest rate.  Ingham County checks in at number 11.