In the aftermath of the violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol, the members of Michigan’s State Capitol Commission unanimously approved a prohibition on citizens’ openly carried firearms within the Michigan Capitol. During that meeting, the measure was presented as the result of negotiations among the commissioners, implying that there are those who want an outright ban on citizen-carried firearms and those who do not wish to take that step. In the aftermath of the Commission’s action, concerns remained about the risks posed by continuing to permit citizen-carried concealed guns inside the Capitol and openly carried weapons on the Capitol grounds. Historical experience, both recent and more distant, indicates that these are not mere hypothetical risks. With respect to concealed weapons, protesters in the 1950s shot members of Congress using pistols carried into the visitors’ gallery. As for permitting citizen-carried guns on Capitol grounds, the FBI recently gathered evidence of plotters against Governor Whitmer discussing bringing weapons to the door of the Capitol during a protest and then rushing into the building. As we know from news photos that sent shockwaves across the nation last spring, even as there is a new ban against their presence in the building, there is nothing to stop those with malevolent intentions from bringing military-style rifles right up to the Capitol’s entry doors.
The Capitol Commission met again on Monday, January 25th. The primary purpose of the live-streamed meeting was to hear an update from architects and historians on plans for a new visitors’ center at the Capitol. In light of continuing risks posed by concealed weapons, it was disconcerting to hear the Commission’s willingness to accommodate one commissioner’s schedule by canceling the upcoming February meeting because, in the words of one commissioner, there is nothing urgent for them to consider. At the end of the formal program, Commissioner Joan Bauer, a former state representative from Lansing, used her comments to express disappointment at the cancellation of the next meeting and to urge the Commission to ban all citizen-carried firearms. Bauer also noted that legislation was being introduced in the House on that very day to advance this goal.
Indeed, Representatives Julie Brixie (Meridian Township) and Tyrone Carter (Detroit) introduced bills to ban citizen-carried firearms in the Capitol, on Capitol grounds, and at House and Senate office buildings [House Bills 4023 and 4024]. The press release announcing the proposed legislation noted that the U.S. Capitol and 32 states ban citizen-carried guns at their capitols. Most of the remaining states have restrictions on where guns can be carried, such as prohibitions on firearms in the legislative chambers. Until the recent action by the State Capitol Commission, however, Michigan was one of only three states that did not impose restrictions on firearms at its capitol. These bills mirror proposals reintroduced in the Senate two weeks earlier by Senators Dayna Polehanki (Livonia) and Rosemary Bayer (Beverly Hills) who had also proposed the bills in the prior legislative session [Senate Bills 34 and 35].
One excuse expressed by those unwilling to advocate a complete ban on citizen-carried firearms is the purported lack of resources for the additional equipment and security personnel needed to check for concealed weapons being brought into the Capitol. However, Gov. Whitmer’s January 19 supplemental budget request to the legislature includes $5 million specifically earmarked to solve these security concerns in order to reduce the risk of gun violence at the Capitol.
Political science research indicates that communications from constituents can be a powerful influence over legislators. Do you know where your representative and senator stand on this issue? Do your legislators know where you stand on this issue? It is easy to identify and communicate with legislators through their websites. Now that specific bills have been introduced, this issue has moved beyond the stage of “I hope something is done” to a moment of opportunity for concrete action. Find your representative at https://www.house.mi.gov/mhrpublic/frmFindARep.aspx . Find your senator at https://www.senate.michigan.gov/fysbyaddress.html . You can also use our search engine to find out who represents you. Among all of the contentious debates about various aspects of gun policy, this is a narrow issue that should draw support across the political spectrum. Not only does it affect the risks faced by school children and tourists visiting our Capitol, it also affects the safety of the legislators themselves.
It is worth noting that this is not the only issue concerning the risks of gun violence currently under discussion among Michigan legislators. On January 24, the Detroit Free Press presented a detailed article on forthcoming proposals concerning safe storage of firearms (“Hunter Wants Lock-Up Law in Michigan for Guns in Homes with Young Children”). In light of recent tragedies when children gained access to unsecured firearms, this, too, should be considered a narrow issue that draws agreement across the political spectrum. Please look at the dates and titles of these very recent articles in the Detroit Free Press and consider whether this is the moment to tell your legislator how you feel about this issue, too.
January 21: “Toddler Kills 5-Year-Old with Father’s Gun They Found in House”
January 24: “3-Year-Old Michigan Boy Dies After Accidently Shooting Himself”
January 25: “Boy, 4, Accidently Shoots Himself in Detroit, 3rd Recent Incident Involving Children”
GUNS DON'T BELONG IN THE CAPITOL.
The Michigan Capitol Commission voted unanimously to support a limited prohibition on citizen-carried firearms inside the state Capitol. However, this ban does not apply to the Capitol grounds or to individuals with conceal carry permits. While an important first step, the Capitol Commission has a long way to go. Show your support and urge your representatives to ban all citizen firearms on the Capitol grounds!
Let’s make our voices heard and put an end to this dangerous practice!