Thursday, March 4, 2021

Unanimous vote bans open carry at Michigan Capitol, FBI warns of armed protests across the country

January 11, 2021
<p>Lansing Capitol building shot from Townsend Street. Photographed on Oct. 1, 2020.</p>

Lansing Capitol building shot from Townsend Street. Photographed on Oct. 1, 2020.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

The Michigan Capitol Commission unanimously voted Monday to ban open carry guns at Michigan's Capitol.

Debates around banning firearms at Michigan's Capitol first arose in April after an armed mob stormed the building in response to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s strict lockdown measures in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Calls to ban weapons at Michigan's Capitol continued after the alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer and other elected officials. The ban comes most recently after an assault by rioters at the country’s Capitol in Washington D.C. last week

“No lawmaker, reporter, staff member, or anyone who works in the Michigan Capitol should fear for their safety at work,” Whitmer said in a press release. “But in the past year, we have seen a rapid rise in violent rhetoric and threats to public safety that require our immediate action. In April of 2020, armed protestors stormed the Michigan Capitol and stood in the gallery, long guns in hand, looking to intimidate legislators doing their job to serve the people of Michigan. And last week, we saw an armed insurgency occur in our nation’s capitol. This cannot stand. We must take immediate action to protect everyone who steps foot in our state Capitol.” 

In addition, the FBI has warned of armed protests at all 50 state capitols prior to or on Jan. 20, according to The Associated Press.

The decision to ban open carry firearms before Monday was split 3-3 in September, with commissioners John Truscott, Gary Randall and Margaret O’Brien opposing it, and Joan Bauer, Kerry Chartkoff and William Kandler favoring it. 

The ban will not apply to law enforcement stationed at the Capitol, including Michigan State Police troopers, Capitol security officers and properly identified licensed police officers, according to the Lansing State Journal

Many Democrats favor the commission’s decision, citing how the dangerous rhetoric from the past year has fueled the uprisings seen at both state and federal Capitol buildings. However, Attorney General Dana Nessel said this is just the start of reforms that need to take place. 

“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 press release. “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. 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. Today’s actions are simply not enough to do that.”

Some Republicans, including the Speaker of the House-elect Jason Wentworth, did not share the same support for the bill. He said the commission “does not have the authority to set policy in the Capitol,” but asked everyone to respect the decision that will be enforced by the Michigan State Police. 

The commission’s ruling comes nine days before President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are sworn into office. 

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