MCRGO’s Silver Anniversary

This fall, MCRGO celebrates its Silver Anniversary. During the past 25 years, the organization has grown to become the largest state-based firearms organization in the United States. Over the coming year, we’ll document its origins, accomplishments, and goals. This is how it came to be…

In Michigan prior to 2001, a person’s ability to receive a concealed pistols license largely depended on where she lived or who he knew. Some counties issued a nonrestricted license to anyone who qualified. Some issued licenses only to people who could show a need. Some county gun boards, composed of the local sheriff, prosecutor, and state police representative, issued licenses to political supporters of those in office. And some counties were essentially no-issue.

County gun boards were created by the Michigan Firearms Act (Public Act 372 of 1927) after an incident in 1925 when Ossian Sweet, an African-American physician, was charged with murder after he and friends used armed self-defense against a violent white crowd protesting his moving into their neighborhood. The may-issue system under the oversight of the county gun boards was designed to prevent minorities from carrying firearms for self-defense. As violent crime increased in the late 1960s-1980s, many counties became increasingly reluctant to issue licenses.

In 1987, Florida became the first major state to institute shall-issue concealed carry although nine smaller states including Indiana had already moved to shall-issue or had unrestricted carry. The “Florida Revolution” set off a wave of states adopting shall-issue during the 1990s. By 2000, 31 states had moved to shall-issue or were unrestricted.

Michigan came late in following Florida’s example although it wasn’t from a lack of effort on behalf of firearms activists and supportive legislators. In 1993, State Representative Alan Cropsey introduced shall-issue legislation. The bill failed under Democratic leadership in the House. Cropsey re-introduced his legislation in 1995. At the time, Michigan had a handful of differing firearms groups. Brass Roots, which had its foundations in the Michigan Libertarian Party, was the most vocal and noticed at the capital. Brass Roots took the position that all firearms laws were unconstitutional. Its no compromise position resulted in the group aggressively targeting legislators and even protesting Cropsey’s bill. Not surprisingly, Brass Roots’ behavior alienated many legislators. While Cropsey’s bill received a committee hearing that session that included many people testifying in favor of it, it failed a committee discharge motion on the House floor and died.

By 1996, increasing use of the internet resulted in the birth of new organizations including Michigan RKBA, the Michigan Firearms Coalition, and Michigun. But each of these groups suffered from the same credibility problems as Brass Roots in taking an “all or nothing” position. It was due to this lack of progress that eight frustrated activists met at 8:00 PM on November 26, 1996 at Finley’s restaurant in Lansing to lay out a new approach. The principles agreed upon at the meeting included: Supporting pro-gun legislation, supporting pro-gun legislators, working directly with local gun boards for change, and uniting different gun groups and activists who favored a more pragmatic strategy in making Michigan a shall-issue state.

Word got out and, when the group met a second time on January 31, 1997 at Chief Okemos Sportsman’s Club in Dimondale, its numbers grew. It was here that the creation of the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners was formalized.