Hundreds of gun owners traveled to the Michigan capitol building in Lansing last week to advocate for their right to keep and bear arms and discourage the legislature from passing a ban on carrying firearms on Capitol grounds.
The event was hosted by several pro-gun groups from Michigan, including Second Amendment March and Michigan Open Carry. Reports of attendance varied from “dozens” to “thousands,” but a review of the images from the event shows at least several hundred people, many of whom are openly carrying firearms.
“Whether you decide to open carry or concealed carry, that is your choice. It is not my job to make that decision for you,” said Tom Lambert, former president of Michigan Open Carry, to the crowd before pointing back to the Capitol building. “It is not their job to make that decision for you either.”
The rally comes as a Michigan legislative committee determines whether firearms will be banned from the capitol grounds.
Just this week, the Michigan State Capitol Commission voted down two such proposals. One, which would have completely banned firearms on capitol grounds, was defeated 2-4. The other would have only barred openly carried firearms in the capitol building, and it was defeated on a 3-3 split decision.
However, Commission Chair Gary Randall indicated that he still plans to work with Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield to “try to find common ground,” according to MLive.
The rally attracted a variety of groups, including militias and members of the Proud Boys. Black gun owners also attended to advocate for more diversity in the gun rights movement.
Phil Robinson, a member of the Michigan Liberty Militia, told MLive that his group marched with Black Lives Matter protesters in Grand Rapids and Hastings following George Floyd’s death. He told the outlet that gun rights are for people of every color and background.
“Everyone should be out here exercising their rights,” he said. “Everybody! I encourage it.”
The debate over openly carried firearms in the Michigan capitol was sparked when armed citizens entered the Michigan capitol building earlier this year to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 lockdown orders. Some armed citizens demanded to enter the House chamber while others went to the Senate gallery to watch the proceedings.
The incident was deeply troubling to Senate Democrats, apparently.
“It’s been four months since armed gunmen stood above elected officials while they worked,” Michigan Senate Democrats said via Twitter this week. “Legislators, staff, children & teachers shouldn’t have to fear guns in the Capitol.”
Senate Democrat Danya Polehanki called for banning firearms on Capitol grounds and said she does not “relish” facing “more armed men in the senate gallery.”
While I did not relish the thought of facing more armed men in the senate gallery on Thursday, we can’t keep canceling session ahead of these armed events. We were elected to work for our constituents, and this is preventing us from doing that. Ban guns from the Capitol now. 2/2— Senator Dayna Polehanki (@SenPolehanki) September 15, 2020
Everytown also got in on the action with a little good-old-fashioned fearmonger and fundraising. They sent the text below to their supporters:
Gun owners argued that citizens who want to visit their elected representatives in the Capitol building should be especially protected from infringements on Second Amendment rights.
“This is my house,” Robinson told The Detroit News, gesturing toward the Capitol building. “I make the rules here, not them … We have every right to be in that building with our guns.”
Another attendee named Douglas Fell walked around the ground floor of the Capitol during the rally while carrying an AR-15.
When a reporter asked him why guns should be allowed in the Capitol, he gestured toward a Michigan State Police trooper who had walked by.
“He’s doing it,” Fell said. “Why can he and I can’t?”
Unlike other high-profile protests in recent weeks, the pro-gun protest in Lansing took place without incident.
Some scenes from the Second Amendment March in Lansing today: pic.twitter.com/PSSRrStV70— Craig Mauger (@CraigDMauger) September 17, 2020