Howard v. Mecosta Cnty. Clerk

CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan (US)
Citation336 Mich.App. 426,970 N.W.2d 404
Docket Number353976
Parties Jesse J. HOWARD, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. MECOSTA COUNTY CLERK, Defendant-Appellee.
Decision Date11 March 2021

Matthew R. Newburg, Grand Ledge for plaintiff.

Brian E. Thiede, Prosecuting Attorney, for defendant.

Before: Redford, P.J., and Sawyer and Boonstra, JJ.

Per Curiam.

Plaintiff appeals the circuit court decision that affirmed defendant's denial of plaintiff's application for a concealed pistol license. Before applying for a concealed pistol license, plaintiff had been convicted of a felony, but the circuit court had granted plaintiff's petition to restore certain firearms rights under MCL 28.424. Plaintiff argues that the restoration of his rights under that statute included the right to obtain a concealed pistol license. We disagree and affirm.

Plaintiff's argument centers largely on whether, despite the restoration of his firearm rights under Michigan law, he is still prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm. There was an extensive discussion of this issue in the circuit court, as well as in plaintiff's brief on appeal to this Court, and there seems to be some question regarding whether a restoration of rights under Michigan law is sufficient to restore rights under federal law. But we decline to consider plaintiff's discussion and analysis of his status under federal law because there is a much more straightforward issue here: defendant is a convicted felon, and the concealed pistol statute precludes any convicted felon from receiving a concealed pistol license.

MCL 28.425b(7)(f) provides in pertinent part:

(7) The county clerk shall issue ... a license to an applicant to carry a concealed pistol ... if the county clerk determines that all of the following circumstances exist:
* * *
(f) ... the applicant has never been convicted of a felony in this state ....

Plaintiff does not dispute that he was, in fact, previously convicted of a felony. Accordingly, plaintiff was disqualified from obtaining a concealed pistol license.

Plaintiff argues that the restoration of his right to possess a firearm also restored his right to obtain a concealed pistol license. We disagree. Plaintiff points to the fact that the application for a concealed pistol license asks whether the applicant has been convicted of a felony as a juvenile, but not as an adult. He argues that the application does not ask about adult felony convictions because unless an applicant's rights have been restored under MCL 28.424, that applicant could not possess a pistol at all. Plaintiff further explains his theory by pointing out that MCL 28.424 does not mention juveniles at all. We fail to see the significance of that distinction. Regardless of whether the application asks about adult felony convictions, MCL 28.425b(7)(f) expressly forbids a convicted felon from obtaining a concealed pistol license.

Plaintiff further argues that interpreting MCL 28.425b(7)(f) as prohibiting any person convicted of a felony from obtaining a concealed pistol license would render nugatory MCL 28.424 and MCL 28.426. We disagree.

In interpreting a statute, we try to give effect to the legislative intent; to discern that intent, we first look at the plain language of the statute. People v. Miller , 498 Mich. 13, 22-23, 869 N.W.2d 204 (2015). Where that language is clear and unambiguous, we apply the statute as written. Id. at 23, 869 N.W.2d 204. Moreover, we must give effect to the entire statute and not interpret it in a manner that would render part of it nugatory. Id. at 25, 869 N.W.2d 204.

With respect to restoring firearms rights, MCL 28.424 provides in relevant part as follows:

(1) An individual who is prohibited from possessing, using, transporting, selling, purchasing, carrying, shipping, receiving, or distributing a firearm under section 224f(2) of the Michigan penal code, 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.224f, may petition the circuit court in the county in which he or she resides for restoration of those rights.
* * *
(4) The circuit court shall, by written order, restore the rights of an individual to possess, use, transport, sell, purchase, carry, ship, receive, or distribute a firearm or to possess, use, transport, sell, carry, ship, or distribute ammunition if the circuit court determines, by clear and convincing evidence, that all of the following circumstances exist:
(a) The individual properly submitted a petition for restoration of those rights as provided under this section.
(b) The expiration of 5 years after all of the following circumstances:
(i) The individual has paid all fines imposed for the violation resulting in the prohibition.
(ii) The individual has served all terms of imprisonment imposed for the violation resulting in the prohibition.
(iii) The individual has successfully completed all conditions of probation or parole imposed for the violation resulting in the prohibition.
(c) The individual's record and reputation are such that the individual is not likely to act in a manner dangerous to the safety of other individuals.

Plaintiff makes no meaningful argument why denying a convicted felon the right to obtain a concealed pistol license would render that section nugatory. Having had his rights restored under MCL 28.424, plaintiff now enjoys a number of rights that he had previously lost, such as the right to own and possess a firearm. The fact that MCL 28.425b(7)(f) prohibits him from obtaining a concealed pistol license does not mean that MCL 28.424 is meaningless to plaintiff. Moreover, MCL 28.424 does not expressly state that the right to obtain a concealed pistol license is restored, nor does MCL 28.425b(7)(f) make an exception for those applicants that have had their firearm rights restored. The two statutes simply are not in conflict.

Plaintiff also argues that " MCL 28.426 requires the County Clerk to issue Mr. Howard his concealed pistol license." Plaintiff seems to confuse a restriction on the county clerk in issuing a concealed pistol license with an...

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