In a sudden reversal of a previous ruling, a commission that manages the Michigan State Capitol building voted unanimously yesterday to ban openly carried firearms at the capitol. The new rule still allows concealed firearms and only affects openly carried firearms within the building, not on Capitol grounds.
The commission had been studying the issue since a group of armed protestors sat in the state Senate gallery while the legislature considered additional COVID-19 lockdown measures. The state attorney general wrote in a legal opinion in May of last year that the commission had the authority to ban guns outright, but the commission decided that they only had the authority to implement measures they could enforce.
“We determined that the extreme limit of our real authority to actually implement something was to implement a ban on open carry,” Commissioner William Kandler said. “We have no authority to implement the infrastructure to go beyond that at this point. We have no budget to do it. We’re not experts in security.”
The commission admitted that they moved up their vote following the attack at the U.S. Capitol. John Trustcott, vice-chair of the Michigan Capitol Commission, said commissioners were going to address the issue later this month, but moved it up because of what happened in Washington last week, according to CBS News.
In September, the same commission struck down the ban on a 3-3 split vote.
Gun rights groups voiced opposition to the ban earlier this year when they rallied at the Capitol.
Michigan’s Democratic governor and attorney general blasted the decision for not going far enough.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said that open carry ban is a “good start, but more action is needed.”
“On a normal day, hundreds of people walk through the Capitol, including groups of fourth graders, teachers, and parents on school field trips to learn about state government. That’s why we must take action to ban all weapons at the Capitol to keep Michiganders safe,” Whitmer said in a statement.
Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel criticized the commission for not imposing measures that would check visitors’ concealed carry licenses.
That means anyone-irrespective of criminal history, membership with an anti-government org, or stated intention to harm government employees-can still enter the Capitol fully locked and loaded with firearms or explosive devices hidden by clothing, backpacks, etc.— Dana Nessel (@dananessel) January 12, 2021
“My job is not to provide state employees & residents or other visitors to our Capitol with a false sense of security, especially given the current state of affairs in Michigan and around the nation,” Nessel concluded. “I repeat-the Michigan Capitol is not safe.”
Not everyone agrees that the commission had the authority to ban open carry. Incoming House Speaker Jason Wentworth said in a statement that the Capitol Commission “does not have the authority to set policy in the Capitol” and will look to address that moving forward.
The commission’s decision was made with the support of the Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey.
Democratic lawmakers were unhappy as well. State Senator Dayna Polehanki posted an image on Twitter of the helmet, gas mask, and pepper spray she plans to keep under her desk.
“What they’re saying is guns are still welcome, we just don’t want to see them,” Polehanki said. “It sends a false message that you’re safe here.”