Democrats in the Michigan legislature are continuing their efforts to ban guns from the state capitol building, where armed protesters have become a regular feature at recent demonstrations in favor of reopening the state’s economy. Democrats in both the House and Senate have introduced a pair of resolutions calling for increased security checkpoints in addition to a prohibition on lawfully carried firearms, and lawmakers are backing up the resolutions with two bills that would bar the practice as well.
House bill 5783 would expand gun-free zones; House bill 5784 would add restrictions for those with a concealed pistol license.
Twenty lawmakers have signed their names to the bills, which were referred to the Committee on Government Operations.
The two resolutions, meanwhile, have been shared with members of the Michigan State Capitol Commission.
Both say the six-member panel has the authority to restrict the carrying of firearms in the state Capitol building; a point that is under review.
“The presence of firearms is meant to intimidate legislators, interrupt the democratic process and block the ability of legislators to properly represent their constituents,’’ according to a House resolution introduced Tuesday.
The move would “ensure legislators, staff and Michigan residents remain safe while using the state Capitol building,’’ House Resolution No. 262 states. Five democrats offered the resolution.
The Capitol Commission is currently weighing whether it has the authority to enact a gun ban, and if so, whether there are the votes on the commission to do so. On Tuesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel “wimped out” by not passing a ban last week after she issued an opinion stating that the commission had the authority to do so.
The opinion came in the wake of a recent Capitol protest that included demonstrators with firearms and Ms. Nessel wants a ban now.
“Before we see a very serious incident that involves mass casualties,” insists Nessel.
But instead of voting to ban weapons, the commission created a study group to determine if it has the power to do that.
“I’m not comfortable rushing into something without a full vetting legal or otherwise,” explained Capitol Commission vice-chair John Truscott.
In fact, the attorney who works for the commission disagreed with the attorney general, saying the panel doesn’t have that authority.
Ms. Nessel counters, the commission without legislative support, voted to ban protesters from bringing signs into the Capitol for fear that it would damage the interior of the historic building.
“You are invoking the First Amendment to ban signs and they didn’t have a problem with that because they indicated they didn’t want paint to be chipped,” claimed the attorney general. “Well, if you’re concerned about paint being chipped you really ought to be worried about an intentional or accidental discharge by a firearm.”
Frankly, the Attorney General ought to be worried about restricting the rights of Michigan residents, but given the fact that Nessel is a big supporter of gun control, it’s not too surprising that she’s in favor of banning firearms from the capitol building. Last year, Nessel was one of twelve state AG’s that submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court arguing that New York City had the right to restrict legal handgun owners from transporting their pistols outside of the city. If she doesn’t believe that gun owners have the right to transport their firearms, I doubt she believes that Michiganders truly have a right to carry anywhere, much less on the grounds of the state capitol.
So far Republicans in control of the state legislature haven’t signaled their support for an outright ban, though several GOP lawmakers have expressed concern about the behavior of some of the armed protesters in the past. At the moment, it looks like if Democrats are going to get their gun ban, the Michigan State Capitol Commission would be their best bet, and there’s no guarantee that the commission will back the ban even if their attorneys agree that they have the authority to do so.