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MI Capitol Commission Votes To Ban Open Carry Of Guns

Maxim Jenkins

The commission that manages the common areas of the Michigan Capitol adopted a policy Monday that bans openly carrying guns throughout much of the building, but with little hope the decision actually settled the question.

The Michigan State Capitol Commission voted 6-0 to adopt the new policy following the armed assault on the US Capitol last week and protestors with guns swarming the statehouse last April.


Under the new policy, only law enforcement and people with valid concealed weapon permits may openly carry a gun into the Capitol. The commission opted against stricter a prohibition, arguing its power to adopt a full ban appears sketchy and it has no budget to take actions such as installing metal detectors at public entrances.


“We have no authority to implement the infrastructure to go beyond that at this point,” said Commissioner William Kandler. “We have no budget. We’re not experts in security.”


The decision was widely panned and faintly praised.


 “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,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer in a statement released by her office. “I am hopeful that the Capitol Commission will recognize the need for further action, and I stand ready to assist in implementing this policy to keep Michiganders safe.”


Whitmer was also the target of an alleged plot to kidnap and execute her over COVID-19 restrictions. Some members of the group met at the April protest in Lansing, according to investigators.


“Armed protestors used our state Capitol for a spring dress rehearsal for what went on in Washington DC last week,” said state Representative Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac). “The ban on open-carry firearms is long overdue and it is my hope we see further action.”


Incoming House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) said he thinks the commission exceeded its authority. This from a statement released by his office:


“The Speaker is grateful for the work of the Capitol Commission, but it does not have the authority to set policy in the Capitol. The Speaker will be looking at options for handling that moving forward. In the meantime, the Michigan State Police will be enforcing  the new ruling. In order to ensure there is no confusion at the Capitol, Speaker Wentworth asks everyone to respect the Michigan State Police and the rules they enforce.”


Wentworth’s spokesman said the GOP leader is considering next steps, such as introducing a bill to outline the rules (which would be subject to a veto by the governor) or filing a lawsuit to challenge the commission’s authority.


But Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, says the commission has the authority and should go further than the rule adopted Monday.


“Firearms – whether explicitly visible or concealed by clothing – possess the same capability to inflict injury and harm on others and only banning open carry does little to meaningfully improve the safety and security of our Capitol,” she said. “I urge the commission or our Legislature to take the proper action and pass the necessary reforms that truly take into account the safety of those visiting and working in our Capitol.”


The new rule:


No person may carry a firearm in the public areas inside the Michigan State Capitol Building. Exceptions to this include the Michigan State Police, Capitol Security Officers, Sergeants-at-Arms of the Michigan Senate or House of Representatives, law enforcement officers licensed by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards in the performance of their official duties, if the officer is in uniform or otherwise properly identified, and, a person with a valid Concealed Pistol License (CPL), issued by any state, who is carrying a weapon in compliance with Michigan CPL regulations.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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