LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Capitol Commission has delayed the decision whether to ban weapons from the Capitol Building after legislators recently expressed fear over the actions of armed demonstrators.
Commission members met during Zoom’s Monday call and decided they needed more time to discuss the topic. Many members said they would like to look deeper into this matter legally.
A committee will be formed to further investigate this issue before the vote is held, according to the Committee’s discussion.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said that Friday the state commission has the authority to ban firearms in the Capitol, if he chooses to do it.
Nessel said that the authority was “consistent with the current state of the law regarding firearms in public buildings” and an information letter sent to Speaker (Lee) Chatfield in 2018.
“The Capitol is a place to freely express thoughts and debates, but freedom of civil discourse does not imply the right to threaten others with harm or violence,” Nessel said. “In our current environment and as the head of law enforcement in this state, I am very concerned about the safety of our legislative members and the wider community.
“With the exception of those tasked with protecting our Capitol, the only way to ensure that episodes of violence do not occur is to act together with many other state legislatures throughout the country that have banned firearms at their Capitol facilities. Employees at our Capitol and visiting community members are entitled to all the same protections that someone in a courthouse and many other public places have. Public safety demands nothing less, and a legislator’s desire to speak freely without fear of violence requires action to be taken. “
“The right to hold and carry weapons,” Chatfield said. “People have the right to do that.”
The Commission, which manages the yard and the Capitol building, consists of the Secretary of the Senate, the Registrar of the House of Representatives, two people who are jointly appointed by the Secretary of the Senate and the Registrar of the House of Representatives, and two people appointed by the governor.
Nessel wrote in her letter to the commissioners that they have legal authority to ensure “the safety of visiting publics, as well as those who do public work by banning firearms inside the Capitol building.”
Nessel said firearm regulations generally originate from state law, but the prohibition of firearms from public space does not need to come from the Legislature.
“The concept of ‘open carry’ in Michigan law does not provide unlimited rights to carry firearms to any public space,” Nessel wrote in his letter.
The Supreme Court also ruled that state law, which precedes regulations by local government units, does not apply to school districts. Therefore, non-local government units – such as the school district, the Supreme Court or the Michigan State Commission – can legally enforce regulations that have an impact on firearms.
Nessel said in his letter that residents were now permitted to enter the Capitol with body armor and armed with high-capacity semi-automatic assault weapons.
“This is permitted during active legislative sessions and times of controversial debate, where emotions and passions are known to be hot,” he wrote. “With the risk of stating the obvious, this is a dangerous, absurd combination that will cause the heart of any security expert to beat.”
During the recent protests at the Capitol, many residents have brought firearms of prominent MPs and other Capitol employees to declare that they feel threatened and feared for their safety.
“You have a constitutional right to protest and you have the right to guard and use weapons, but you don’t have a constitutional right to do both at the same time,” Chatfield said. “I think we need to be very careful about that.”
Chatfield believes it is his duty to uphold these constitutional rights regardless of the situation.
“Constitutional rights are very important to me and I think it’s true that we respect that because people give us our constitution,” Chatfield said.
“If the Capital Commission fails to act tomorrow, I am very worried that eventually they will have blood on their hands,” Nessel said Sunday.
Statement from Democrat House:
Next is a letter from Democrat House to the Commission, asking for a ban on firearms in the Capitol.
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