At least a few members of the Capitol Commission appeared willing to endorse a ban on carrying firearms inside the capitol building, but none of them pressed hard for an immediate ban. Instead, the group established a special, five-person committee to look into the issue further.
John Truscott, a member of the Capitol Commission, said the issue is probably the most serious that the commission has ever had to deal with, which is why the commission wants to take its time in making a decision.
Gary Randall, chair of the commission, replied that the committee members will set out “an aggressive schedule” to deal with the proposed gun ban, and said members could be back as early as next week with recommendations.
Several lawmakers in the state have backed the calls to ban guns from the capitol building after armed protestors poured into the capitol during a protest of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order in late April. While there were no arrests made during the protest, some legislators complained that they felt intimidated by the armed protestors in the legislative galleries, and one Lansing-area Democrat received an armed escort by six individuals just days after the protest took place.
State House Speaker Lee Chatfield says he believes banning firearms from the capitol building isn’t the answer.
“You have a constitutional right to protest and you have a right to keep and bare arms, but you don’t have a constitutional right to do both at the same time,” Chatfield said. “I think we have to be very careful about that.”
Chatfield believes it’s his duty to uphold those constitutional rights regardless of the circumstances.
“Constitutional rights are very important to me and I think it’s only right that we honor those because the people give us our constitution,” Chatfield said.
I have to say, I was a little confused by Rep. Chatfield’s comments about having to pick and choose between exercising your First Amendment rights and your Second Amendment rights, but as it turns out, Michigan’s capitol prohibits protest signs from inside the building, which Chatfield brought up while speaking to a Michigan-based podcast last week.
“You have to be very careful before you say you can exercise one constitutional right by coming in and protesting, but you can’t exercise another. And so I support people having the ability to exercise their constitutional rights in a responsible way, and I’m certainly not going to say anything different than that.”
However, Chatfield supports a separate rule that prohibits signs in the Michigan Capitol, which he said is “appropriate and should stay in place.”
That long-standing regulation, which has prompted criticism from First Amendment advocates, is ostensibly designed to protect the building from inadvertent damage by signs mounted on sticks, which has happened before.
In other words, Chatfield’s issue isn’t with protests themselves, but signage carried by protestors. Personally, I’d like to see the rule prohibiting signs face a legal challenge, but that’s a court fight for another day. For the time being, the lawful carrying of firearms is still allowed inside the state capitol building, and lawmakers can expect more protestors, armed and unarmed, in the days ahead.