You’d think city council members in Flint have more important things to do than to try to disarm lawful gun owners while they’re inside City Hall, but the push to turn the facility into a “gun-free zone” has been a top priority for council members over the past month or so. In late October the city entered into an agreement with the 67th District Court to turn a portion of City Hall into courtroom space, under the theory that the court’s local administrative order barring firearms and other self-defense items as well as recording devices and cameras would apply to all business conducted at City Hall, including city council meetings.
Shortly after Mayor Sheldon Neely announced the plan, several Second Amendment groups and two Flint residents sued the city alleging that the agreement has resulted in flagrant violations of the state’s Open Meetings Act. On Monday, Genesee Circuit Judge Brian S. Pickell agreed that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail in their lawsuit, and granted a preliminary injunction against enforcing the newly-enacted “gun-free zone” (and prohibitions on recording) while the litigation continues.
In his decision, Pickell concluded, “since members of the general public are otherwise lawfully permitted to possess said personal-protection items under state law at Defendants’ open meetings, Plaintiffs have demonstrated that they have a likelihood of success on the merits and would suffer irreparable harm if the motion were denied.” The same goes for using recording devices during open meetings, so that prohibition is on hold as well while the lawsuit proceeds to trial.
Rather than showing contrition for trying to circumvent the state’s Open Meetings Act, Mayor Neely took umbrage at the audacity of gun owners and groups like Michigan Open Carry, Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners, and Michigan Gun Owners in trying to hold the city accountable for the actions of its leaders.
Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley said he’s disappointed by the judge’s decision.
“We have seen horrific acts committed in public spaces. It is beyond disappointing that gun lobbyists can use legal tactics that render helpless our best efforts to protect residents,” said Neeley.
Plaintiff Arthur Woodson said the judge saw that Flint’s mayor was trying to circumvent the law.
“We have laws for a reason and (Mayor Neeley) needs to follow them,” said Woodson, “(Neeley) violated the OMA. We The People have to stand up to the lawless elected officials.”
Yes, we have seen horrific acts committed in public spaces, and many of them have been “gun-free zones” because killers don’t care about a sign that says guns are prohibited from a particular location. But if Neely is disappointed that Second Amendment advocates can use “legal tactics” to stop the city from violating state law, imagine how disappointed his constituents must feel knowing that he’s both foolish enough to believe “gun-free zones” actually prevent violence and arrogant enough to think he and city council members are above the law.
It’s important to note that Judge Pickell’s injunction only applies to open meetings conducted in City Hall, so Flint residents hoping to keep their carry gun on them while they pay their water bill or conduct other business inside the building should be aware that the “gun-free” designation is still in place for all other day-to-day activities. The city could also appeal Pickell’s decision to the Michigan Supreme Court, but for now, at least, Flint residents don’t have to give up their First or Second Amendment rights when they take part in a city council meeting, and that’s a big win for the forces of freedom. Congratulations to all three 2A groups as well as the individual plaintiffs for emerging victorious from this round in court, and hopefully we’ll have more good news to celebrate when Pickell issues his final decision in the months ahead.