Michigan State Capitol Commission bans open carry of firearms inside state Capitol building
Posted January 11, 2021 4:51 p.m. EST
CNN — The Michigan State Capitol Commission on Monday banned the open carry of firearms inside the state's Capitol building, effective immediately.
The policy change only affects public areas inside the building and does not change policy on the Capitol grounds, nor does it prohibit licensed concealed pistol carry that follows state laws, according to the commission policy.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, citing armed protests at the Michigan state Capitol building in April and the recent violence at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, said the commission should recognize the need for a ban on all weapons.
"The Capitol Commission's action to ban open carry guns at the Capitol is a good start, but more action is needed," Whitmer, a Democrat, said in a statement Monday. "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."
She added, "That's why we must take action to ban all weapons at the Capitol to keep Michiganders safe. 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."
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined the governor in calling for stricter measures.
"Though I appreciate the Commission's decision today to prohibit the open carry of firearms, it's only a single step down the long path of reforms that are necessary to make our legislators, state employees and visitors safe in our state Capitol," Nessel said in a statement released after the vote.
Nessel advised in a May 2020 written legal opinion that the Capitol Commission does have the authority to amend policies upheld in the Capitol building without a legislative body passing legislation.
Still, the commission rejected a proposal to ban firearms from the building in September.
Commission Chair Gary Randall said during the proceedings Monday that he believes the commission took the issue as far as they could at this point. The commission has been looking at this for more than a year, Randall said during the televised public meeting.
Lawmakers at different levels in the state have gone back and forth on the issue. Democratic state lawmakers have been pushing for months to ban firearms from the Capitol building after the spring protests.
In the spring, Whitmer faced heated pushback over pandemic stay-at-home orders, and protesters -- some of whom were armed -- stormed the Michigan Capitol. Protesters in April jammed inside the building where the lawmakers were meeting and about 400 to 700 people stood on the Capitol grounds, according to Michigan State Police, and demanding an end to the state's state of emergency.
Scores of demonstrators were allowed into the Capitol -- which has been closed to tourists -- but due to social distancing rules in place, only 275 people were allowed inside at a time, according to Lt. Brian Oleksyk, a spokesman for the state police. State Sen. Dayna Polehanki, a Democrat, tweeted at the time that protesters were directly above her -- "men with rifles yelling at us."
"Some of my colleagues who own bullet proof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our Sergeants-at-Arms more than today," she added, and a photo she included in her tweet showed four men, at least two of whom had rifles.
In October, some Democratic state lawmakers demanded firearms be banned from the state Capitol building after the news that the FBI thwarted an alleged domestic terror plot to kidnap Whitmer. One of the accused plotters allegedly had initially discussed storming the state Capitol and taking hostages, according to court documents. Thirteen people were charged in the alleged domestic terrorism plot to kidnap Whitmer, federal and state officials announced that month.
A bill was introduced in the Senate in the fall of last year but never gained traction.
Additionally, "credible threats of violence" prompted Michigan authorities to close the state Capitol to the public and shutter House and Senate offices, a spokeswoman said, on the day the Electoral College formally declared Joe Biden the President-elect.