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Michigan officials exploring gun ban inside state Capitol

Armed protesters watch the protest outside while waiting for the Michigan Senate to vote Thursday, April 30, 2020 at the capitol in Lansing. (Nicole Hester/Mlive.com)
May 05, 2020

Michigan officials are exploring their legal options to ban guns inside the Capitol.

John Truscott, vice chairman of the Michigan Capitol Commission said on Tuesday that the commission was looking into the possibility of a ban and had sought legal advice to do so, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“We do not like seeing guns brought into the building — loaded guns — and I’m a Second Amendment advocate,” Truscott, a Republican, said, adding that he was “very disturbed” by the recent protest.

The efforts follow days after frustrated Michigan residents stormed the Capitol in protest of the state’s emergency stay-home order. Some of the protesters openly carried firearms inside the building, while shouting demands to be let into the Senate chamber where lawmakers were debating an extension of the stay-home order.

“Our legal council has been researching the law and I am told one of the things she will be briefing us on next week is the limitations that we have,” he said, according to WWJ News. “We do not have the authority, at least it appears at this point, to go beyond law. Since open carry is allowed in Michigan, we can’t supersede that.”

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Guns have long been permitted inside the Capitol grounds via a 1931 law, which specifically permits concealed weapons inside the Capitol. There is no law forbidding open carry on Capitol grounds, but there are laws banning guns from other government buildings.

Rifles and handguns are regularly carried into the Capitol during the annual “Second Amendment March” in a display of support for the Second Amendment rights.

“We’ve had for years a number of rallies on the Capitol lawn where guns are brought in, people advocating for the Second Amendment, but this took things a step further,” Truscott said. This group — a very small group of individuals that came in the building — really took a threatening stance…and it was a different tone that was taken than has ever been taken before. It really gave people some pause.”

Truscott said legislation could be crafted to “easily deal with this”

Despite the legality of guns at the Capitol, some lawmakers said they were disturbed by the display of armed protesters.

Sen. Dayna Polehanki said in a tweet on Thursday, “Directly above me, men with rifles yelling at us. Some of my colleagues who own bullet proof vests are wearing them. I have never appreciated our Sergeants-at-Arms more than today.”

House sergeants and Michigan State Police officers had formed a line to block protesters from the House chamber, which the public is prohibited from entering.

“There’s always a risk, but we were prepared for it,” Michigan State Police spokesman Lt. Brian Oleksyk said Thursday. “People are allowed to exercise their right to freedom of speech and their right to open carry. We always kept an eye on it.”