Earlier this year, deputies stopped Amir Hudson’s vehicle and found a handgun under his front seat. They also found a loaded, semiautomatic AK-47 in his trunk.
Hudson was charged with two weapons offenses, but his attorney argued in court filings that they should be dismissed because they violate his constitutional rights. Prosecutors disagreed.
The case is another recent example of issues involving guns and gun rights being in the public eye.
In the summer, gun advocates crowded Royal Oak City Commission meetings to protest a clause in a contract that banned guns from the Arts, Beats & Eats festival. They were successful, though city leaders are now trying to get state law changed to restrict guns at next year’s festival.
Ben Shattuck, a Pontiac resident and member of a group called Michigan Open Carry, said he thinks guns and gun ownership have been hot topics lately because more people are carrying firearms for self-protection from crime in an uncertain economy.
“I think what it is, is most people understand that you have more police (who are) laid off,” because of municipal budget belt-tightening, he said. “You’ve got to be able to protect yourself and your family.
“Before, it was only a couple people who open carried. (Now), a lot of people are doing it because they know it’s legal, and they need to be able to protect themselves and their families.”
Kingsley Browne, a law professor at Wayne State University Law School, said in about the last 15 years, a number of states have switched from being “may issue” states to “shall issue” states. In may issue states, it’s up to the state to decide whether a person gets a concealed pistol permit. Shall issue states must issue permits unless the applicant is disqualified — such as if they have a criminal history, or if they’re not old enough.
Browne said the shifts made headlines and raised public awareness of gun rights issues.
Laws regarding gun possession vary by state. In Michigan, people don’t need any sort of permit to carry their own pistol openly in most places, as long as the person is not disqualified by law.
Browne said state statue prohibits the possession of guns in certain locations, such as schools, but there are some exceptions for people who have a concealed pistol license.
There’s a separate statute, he said, that says people are not allowed to carry a concealed weapon in certain places even with a concealed weapons permit, but it leaves open the ability for people with a concealed weapons permit to openly carry in some places.
There were two recent noteworthy U.S. Supreme Court cases involving gun laws. The first, District of Columbia v. Heller, involved a challenge to a prohibition on the possession of handguns and usable, lawfully owned long guns in the home. Browne said the high court held in that case that the Second Amendment provides an individual right to keep and bear arms, and also said that some restrictions on gun possession were not imperiled by the ruling.
Earlier this year, the court said in another case, McDonald v. City of Chicago, that Heller applies not only to the federal government, but to state governments and local governments as well.
How do those rulings impact state law?
“The answer to that is nobody really knows,” Browne said. “The Heller and McDonald cases involved primarily just possession in the home. The court, in Heller and in McDonald, said there can still be gun regulations. … Now the question really is what level of constitutional scrutiny applies to regulations of the right to keep and bear arms?”
The Heller and McDonald cases were cited in Oakland County Circuit Court filings regarding the case of People v. Amir Hudson.
Hudson’s Dodge Charger was stopped Feb. 27 in Rochester Hills by deputies who got a call from a man who said he was being followed by people in another vehicle, and one of those people appeared to have a gun.
At a traffic stop on Hamlin Road, Hudson told deputies about the handgun he had under his front driver’s seat, for which he had a concealed weapons permit, and about the AK-47 in his trunk. The permit was from Pennsylvania, where Hudson is from originally.
Hudson also told deputies that he’s a law-abiding citizen who keeps a gun for self-protection.
He was arrested and charged with carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a loaded firearm in a vehicle in a nongame area. He was not charged with anything related to what deputies said happened before the traffic stop, when a person reported to police that he was approached by men at the Somerset Collection who told him that his friend owed them money. The complainant said the men later followed him in a vehicle from his house in Troy, and that one of the men got out of a vehicle at a gas station and approached him with what looked like a gun.
Defense attorney Neil Rockind said the gun charges are violations of his client’s fundamental, constitutional right to carry a gun. He cited the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Heller and McDonald cases in his motion to dismiss the charges.
“ … Hudson, as a law-abiding citizen, has the right to keep and bear arms under the federal Constitution and has an individual and fundamental constitutional right to keep and bear firearms for the purpose of self-defense in case of confrontation,” Rockind’s court brief reads.
Rockind said because Hudson’s right to bear firearms is protected by the U.S. Constitution, any regulations placed on it should be judged by strict scrutiny. He said the criminal charges are based on gun control regulations that are vague and overbroad, and do not meet strict scrutiny or intermediate scrutiny standards.
Rockind said Hudson also is protected by the Michigan Constitution.
He said Michigan’s gun regulations are vague and muddled, run afoul of the McDonald and Heller rulings and need to be re-written.
“This, to me, is the sort of case where someone should take a second, third or fifth look at the prosecution of Amir Hudson and say, ‘You know what? We shouldn’t do it,’ ” Rockind told The Oakland Press.
Assistant Prosecutor Kelly Collins said in court filings that Rockind was overreaching in his use of the Heller and McDonald decisions. Each case is factually distinct from the facts in the Hudson case, she said.
“Neither case held that an individual has a fundamental right to carry a concealed weapon or to carry a weapon in a motor vehicle,” she wrote. “In fact, Heller cautioned against expanding its ruling to suggest that individuals have an unlimited individual right to bear arms in all locations at all times.”
Collins said Hudson has a valid Michigan driver’s license and also is a registered voter in the state, making him a Michigan resident.
“An individual’s right to bear arms neither equates to an unlimited right to possess nor a constitutional right to carry a concealed weapon,” she wrote. “Michigan’s statutory requirement, that its residents apply for a Michigan concealed weapons permit in order to be allowed to carry a concealed pistol or to carry a pistol in a motor vehicle, is constitutional and has not been rendered unconstitutional by any of the cases cited by the defendant.
“Likewise, Michigan’s prohibition against possessing and/or transporting a loaded (nonpistol/nonrevolver) firearm in a motor vehicle is constitutional and has not been rendered unconstitutional by any of the cases cited by the defendant.”
A deal was recently worked out before Hudson was scheduled to go to trial. The assistant prosecutor asked to dismiss the two counts and add a third misdemeanor count of improper transfer of a firearm in a vehicle. Hudson pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge and was put on a delayed sentence. He is scheduled to return to Oakland Circuit Judge Michael Warren’s courtroom Nov. 17.
“He was firmly committed to his right to carry a firearm,” Rockind said. “The offense to which he pled, the misdemeanor offense, is one that does not bar him or does not ban him or prohibit him from carrying or receiving a permit to carry a concealed weapon.”
We strongly believe in your 2nd Amendment Rights and Neil Rockind, P.C. is extremely experienced in handling all types of weapon offenses. If you or a loved one is faced with a criminal charge or an investigation by any policing agency regarding a weapons offense, please contact Neil Rockind, P.C. at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office directly at 248-208-3800 to schedule your free consultation!