It has been almost 5 months since armed protesters entered Michigan’s Capitol building and demanded that Governor Gretchen Whitmer lift Coronavirus restrictions deemed to be unconstitutional. But in response to that protest, the Michigan Capitol Commission is now considering whether or not to ban firearms in the building.
Pro-Second Amendment residents are now gathering in an effort to maintain their right to bear arms in the Capitol building itself.
The 11th annual Second Amendment March occurred on Thursday, September 17, with several hundred people in attendance. Many were visibly armed and carried American flags.
Although the March is an annual event, this year holds special importance – the six-member commission only this week rejected one proposal to generally ban guns and another to limit only the open carry of weapons inside the Capitol. However, the discussion is not over yet. The panel plans to continue considering the matter, and meet with the leaders of the Michigan House and Senate.
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There has never been a violent incident involving a firearm at the Capitol building, but the April 30 rally against Covid-19 limitations opened the door for new discussion.
Commission member Joan Bauer, a former Democratic lawmaker from Lansing, declared that the commission has a “moral and legal responsibility to act before something terrible happens.”
During the April 30 protest, dozens of people demanded entry into the House chamber, chanting, “Let us in.” Some protesters who were visibly armed also went to the Senate gallery, which was open to the public, where demonstrators shouted down at lawmakers as they were in session.
Those in favor of a ban on firearms do not feel it is appropriate for lawmakers to be “threatened” by constituents with guns. State Rep. Sarah Anthony, D-Lansing argues that the presence of guns in the building creates an environment of “panic and anxiety” for those who work inside the Capitol and spurs pressure to vote a certain way to protect themselves from violence.
Those who are fighting against the ban point out that it is unconstitutional to limit a citizen’s right to bear arms. The Michigan constitution would have to be amended in order to do so.
As Phil Robinson of Michigan Liberty Militia said best, “This is my house. I make the rules here, not them … We have every right to be in that building with our guns.”
Michigan residents have consistently expressed frustration and dissatisfaction with Democratic Governor Whitmer’s overreaching executive orders to keep Michigan closed. Whitmer chose to extend her “Safer at Home” order until June 1 before implementing a six-stage plan to reopening – all without the input or approval of the Republican-controlled House and Senate.
Now, the obscure Michigan Capitol Commission, typically limited to maintaining the grounds of the Capitol, has been tasked with deciding whether or not to ban guns on the property. Thus far, the commission has fallen back on making the decision a monetary one. They have determined that an investment of at least $500,000 in equipment and increased staff would be required to enforce a ban.
Those who support a ban have argued that signage alone would be sufficient to enforce the ban.
Another budget-busting factor in the Capitol Commission's consideration is the expectation that the panel will be sued if it seeks to limit guns in the Capitol. The panel “does not have a budget to provide legal representation,” a commission report said.
Many have questioned if the Commission has the authority to ban guns in the Capitol building. Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, released a formal legal opinion, saying the commission had the power to ban guns. Gary Gordon, a longtime government policy lawyer at the firm Dykema, was hired by the committee to assess their authority – and also determined the commission can ban or allow firearms in the Capitol building and grounds.
Michigan currently ranks #27 on Guns and Ammo’s annual list of “Best States for Gun Owners.”