MI Attorney General: Guns At Capitol "A Stain Upon Our State"

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel isn’t having a great week. Days after she declared that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson could impose a ban on openly carried firearms at or near polling places, a judge overruled her decision, finding that Benson doesn’t have the authority to implement such a ban.

Nessel has appealed the decision, but given the fact that neither she nor Benson have actually been able to point to anything in state law that empowers the Secretary of State to unilaterally impose a ban, she’s facing long odds of success. In the process of trying to ban guns, she’s ended up creating a situation where some folks are going to carry just because they’ve been told they can’t.

This isn’t the first professional embarrassment for Nessel when it comes to the Second Amendment. The Attorney General has been arguing for months that the Michigan State Capitol Commission should ban firearms from the capitol grounds and buildings, but so far the commission itself says it’s actually the legislature that should take that step. Nessel’s frustration boiled over in a recent interview with the Michigan Advance, where she lashed out at the “cowards” who are keeping the gun ban at bay.

You know, I am a lifelong Michigander. I love the state of Michigan. I love its people. I am proud of this state. But some of these policies, they are just a stain upon our state. We are a national embarrassment when it comes to these types of policies. People are likely being deterred from running for these seats [in the state Legislature] because their safety cannot be protected in any way, shape or form the way any other worker in the state [is]. You can sue your employer otherwise. If you worked in an office, if you worked at a factory, if you worked at a plant and your employer refused to protect you from armed gunmen and refused to protect you from COVID, you could sue them. And you might come away with a really substantial judgment in your favor.

This is an absolutely absurd argument. Nessel is claiming that any office or factory that didn’t bar the legal carrying of firearms could be successfully sued as a result. Obviously that’s a novel legal theory, and one that would hold up as well in court as Nessel’s claims that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer didn’t violate the state constitution with her coronavirus-related executive orders (the state Supreme Court rejected Whitmer and Nessel’s arguments in a 4-3 decision earlier this month).

I think it’s time for Nessel to consider the possibility that she’s actually a problem creator, not a problem solver. Her legal philosophy of empowering state officials at the expense of the rights of residents have been repeatedly rejected over the past few weeks by courts and commissions alike. In each case, Nessel has insisted that she’s in the right and judges, legislators, police chiefs, sheriffs, and Capitol Commission members are in the wrong.

When I hear the ridiculous statements of, ‘Oh, well, they could still potentially do something even if you had metal detectors, even if you had security stopping them from coming in’ — well, we don’t use that rationale at courthouses. I’ve been working in courthouses my entire career. We very, very, very rarely have an incident where somebody is able to get a gun into a courthouse. It almost never happens. And I can tell you right now, the reason for that is because you have metal detectors and because you have security for it. And could people potentially barge in? I guess it could happen. Does it happen? Almost never.

Nessel’s argument for a gun ban in the state capitol is that without it, it’s “only a matter of time” before armed insurgents “take out an entire chamber of legislators in a minute.” Declaring the capitol complex a gun-free zone, however, would thwart those would-be terrorists, who apparently wouldn’t dare to violate a rule prohibiting firearms in the capitol even though in her scenario they would be prepared to commit mass murder.

Yeah, that sounds crazy to me too.

I’d probably be frustrated too if my novel legal theories kept getting rejected by judges, law enforcement, and lawmakers, but at some point I’d like to think I’d be self-aware enough to acknowledge that maybe I’m part of the problem instead of being part of the solution. I’ve seen no evidence that Nessel’s ready to take that step, even though it would be the right move for herself and the state.