The issue of whether guns should be banned or allowed at the state capitol building in Lansing, Michigan has been hotly debated since April, when anti-lockdown protests that included some armed protesters took place on the capitol grounds in the building itself. Earlier this week the Michigan Capitol Commission voted down two proposals; one that would have banned all firearms from the building and another that would have banned the carrying of long guns.
Second Amendment supporters had a rally at the capitol planned for this week anyway to show their opposition to the proposed gun ban, and n Thursday, about 1,000 gun owners showed up for a peaceful demonstration on the capitol lawn.
Two parents carried rifles while their daughter shouldered a BB gun. Others wore British Revolutionary War costumes to mock Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus-prevention policies. And some Black Detroiters were there advocating for more diversity in the gun rights movement…
While occasionally addressing other issues such as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-home measures, speakers at the Sep. 17 rally focused on the rights of protesters, many of whom carrying pistols and rifles out in the open.
“Whether you decide to open carry or concealed carry, that is your choice. It is not my job to make that decision for you,” said Tom Lambert, former president of Michigan Open Carry, to the crowd before pointing back to the Capitol building. “It is not their job to make that decision for you either.”
That’s obviously in dispute. The state’s Attorney General says the Capitol Commission does have the authority to decide if guns will be allowed in the statehouse, and while the votes to ban guns failed this week, the commission is apparently still talking to lawmakers in an attempt to find “common ground,” according to the commission chairman.
Firearms have long been allowed in and around the Michigan Capitol building, and members of the public are allowed to enter the building without being checked by security. That’s not the case in the U.S. Capitol and many other state Capitol buildings around the country.
A few Republican politicians spoke about the proposal, including Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte. He argued the Capitol Commission doesn’t have the authority to ban guns from the building.
“The Capitol Commission deals with the care and upkeep of the Capitol building, the grounds here that you see and upkeep of the statues,” he said. “But they don’t have the ability to set policy within the Capitol building itself.”
Both Attorney General Dana Nessel and independent counsel retained by the commission found the panel does indeed have the authority, although some commissioners were hesitant to make a determination without some legislative input.
Perhaps the most common sense take of the day was offered by a Republican congressional candidate, who has what is now officially my favorite name in politics.
David “Dude” Dudenhoefer, Republican challenger for U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s 13th District seat, said while the optics of hundreds of rifled protesters in the Capitol building during an April 30 rally may not look good to some, it’s no reason to deny people their Second Amendment rights and right to self-defense.
“Wherever you go, you have the right to defend yourself,” he said. “If there are places where they restrict that right, that’s a criminal empowerment zone.”
He also pointed that no armed protester has discharged a shot in front or inside the Capitol building, comparing it to violence during police brutality protests in Detroit.
It’s a great point. You’ve got people in illegal possession of firearms who are illegally using firearms to commit violent crimes, but far too many lawmakers in Lansing are more interested in the legal gun owners who are peaceably and legally carrying at the state capitol complex.
I suspect that ultimately the Capitol Commission is going to try to split the baby here and attempt to please everyone, while ultimately making no one happy. If I had to guess, I’d say they’re going to push a ban on openly-carried firearms while still allowing concealed carry. That won’t be far enough for the gun-banners, and it’ll be too far for many Second Amendment activists, but it’s still the most likely scenario if commission members are trying to find some common ground between lawmakers.
Of course it could be that there’s no common ground to be found, only the quicksand of partisan politics when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms. I think the best thing to do would be for the Capitol Commission to drop the subject completely, but something tells me that isn’t the leading option for commission members at the moment.