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Judge backs Kent gun owners


Wednesday, December 14, 2005 By Steven Harmon The Grand Rapids Press

GRAND RAPIDS -- Kent County gun owners won't have to get a doctor's note attesting to their mental fitness when they file for a concealed weapons permit, a court ruling held this week.

The ruling, by Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul Sullivan, called mental status verification forms "void and unenforceable" and negated Kent County's requirement that applicants disclose name or address changes for the past eight years.

The ruling was a victory for Rockford resident Steven Pikaart, who brought a lawsuit against Kent County for denying him a permit after he refused to answer questions about his mental fitness. Pikaart likely will receive his permit now, said his attorney, David Bieganowski.

"Kent County was the only county doing this ridiculous thing (requiring doctor's notes on mental fitness)," Bieganowski said. "Kent County was more adamant than others, so it just took this long to get along with the program and get on board with everyone else."

The Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners lauded the ruling, which said Kent County's policy "reaches beyond the authority granted to concealed weapon licensing boards by the Legislature."

"We thank Judge Sullivan for his jurisprudence and stand by our fundamental position," Chuck Perricone, MCRGO executive director, wrote in a letter to group members.

"Once an applicant has been cleared by the FBI and completed the intensive training required by law, he or she shall be granted their constitutional right to self-defense."

Kent County Clerk Mary Hollinrake called the ruling disappointing.

"The law states clearly the sheriff shall verify (a person's mental status), and our sheriff tried to follow the law," said Hollinrake, who serves on the county gun board. "The Legislature wanted the public to be protected. Self-reporting doesn't work."

She said the concealed weapons law does not allow applicants to merely declare they have not been convicted of crimes. It requires the counties to check the information on the state's Law Enforcement Information Network.

"The idea of self-reporting on mental health, that it's good enough to swear to it, is specious," Hollinrake said. "I'd think that with something as serious as guns, there'd be a thorough check."

The law says applicants' mental health records can be checked through LEIN, but that is not the case, Hollinrake said.

"I don't know if the designers of the law didn't know or were being disingenuous" about not being able to check LEIN for an applicant's mental status, she said. "We're told to do something one way and when that way won't give you the result, what does that say about the law?"
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