LANSING — Guns rights groups are mobilizing supporters to block Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s appointee to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission.
Whitmer named former Grand Rapids Mayor George K. Heartwell, a Democrat from Newaygo, to the commission on Feb. 7.
Heartwell has long been an outspoken advocate for gun control. The Grand Rapids Press reported he criticized Congress in 2014 for its inaction on regulating weapons and his belief that “guns make us less safe.”
Heartwell also is active in environmental groups. He serves on the Environmental Law and Policy Center Advisory Board and the Great Lakes Water Quality board. He recently stepped down from his post on the State Transportation Committee, Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Jeff Cranson confirmed.
As a “lifelong angler and conservationist,” Heartwell is a good fit for the commission, Whitmer spokesperson Tiffany Brown said in a statement.
“During his time as the Mayor of Grand Rapids, Heartwell earned a strong reputation as a bipartisan problem-solver who was dedicated to building safe neighborhoods and a vibrant community where businesses could grow and thrive,” she said.
The Natural Resources Commission regulates hunting and fishing in Michigan. It can set rules for firearms in the context of hunting, like what magazine sizes and gun calibers are allowed.
“It’s not a broad authority, but just has to do with hunting,” Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Ed Golder said.
State Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, said he was fired up about statements about gun control Heartwell made when he was mayor, although he did not point to a specific statement. He questioned whether Heartwell supports expanding youth firearm hunting, carrying concealed firearms during archery season and other hunting issues.
“You can go on and on and on where you get into these little niches where there are regulations that involve firearms, which he is adamantly opposed to,” Cole said.
Cole said he intends to accept Heartwell’s invitation to meet to talk about his concerns.
The NRA says Heartwell has ties to Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor, also a gun control advocate.
As mayor, Bloomberg founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Heartwell was a member of the group, according to a column he co-wrote published in the Grand Rapids Press.
Approving Heartwell’s appointment would show that Senate Republicans are willing to compromise on other gun control measures, Great Lakes Gun Rights Executive Director Brenden Boudreau argued in an online statement.
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