A top-ranking Republican in the Michigan House will not face criminal charges after bringing an unregistered gun to the airport. Rep. Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) says he accidentally brought the firearm to the Pellston Regional Airport in July.
“Mr. Chatfield entered the Pellston Regional Airport with a firearm and everybody realizes this is a dangerous situation," says Emmet County Prosecutor James Linderman.
But Linderman says he cannot charge Chatfield under current law.
"The issue that I have, though, is the criminal statute prohibiting this under Michigan law, I believe has a serious flaw in it," he says.
Linderman says Michigan law prohibits firearms in a “sterile area," but it points to a federal law to define what those "sterile" areas are. He says that definition was removed back in 2001, making it unclear where firearms are prohibited.
"Our legislature needs to address this by adding a definition within our own statutes," Linderman wrote in a press release on Monday.
Linderman is a Republican and says he has given money to a number of politicians, including Chatfield.
"But this is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s not a partisan issue," says Linderman. "This is about the law and a flaw in the law, and that goes way beyond any partisan politics."
Linderman says he’s had to dismiss similar charges in the past because of the legal flaw. But according to The Detroit News, other Michigan officials have been charged after bringing firearms to the airport in recent years.
Chatfield did not immediately return requests for comment. In a Facebook apology, he said he forgot the gun in his bag and called it an “inexcusable mistake.”
Prosecutor Linderman says Chatfield could still be fined by airport security or Emmet County.
Chatfield faces a Republican challenger in Tuesday's primary for the 107th district seat.