The commission that manages the premises of the Michigan State Capitol adopted a policy Monday that bans open carry of guns in the building, although people with concealed-weapons permits may still bring firearms inside.
In a unanimous 6-0 vote, the Michigan Capitol Commission opted to impose the open carry ban, which goes into effect immediately. The commission argued against against adopting a full weapons ban inside the Capitol, saying its authority to do so is questionable and it lacks the budget for enforcement, which would likely require such measures as installing metal detectors at entrances, according to NPR.
“We have no authority to implement the infrastructure to go beyond that at this point,” said Commissioner William Kandler in remarks to NPR. “We have no budget. We’re not experts in security.”
For years, the commission resisted such a move, at times claiming it did not have the authority to order a firearms ban. The shift in thinking may relate to the Jan. 6 violent breach of the U.S. Capitol, along with an internal FBI memo issued on Monday, as reported by ABC, warning that armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
Several unidentified individuals pose next to a sign in the lobby of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., on Oct. 17, 2020. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty Images)
Moves to ban weapons at the statehouse have been pushed since April, when protesters opposed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions, some armed with long rifles, entered the Michigan Capitol demanding to be allowed onto the floor of a legislative chamber that was closed to the public.
A spokeswoman for incoming House Speaker Jason Wentworth, a Republican, said he wants everyone to abide by the rule, even though he doesn’t believe the commission had the right to issue it.
“The speaker is grateful for the work of the Capitol Commission, but it does not have the authority to set policy in the Capitol,” Lynn Afendoulis said in a news release. ”The speaker will be looking at options for handling that moving forward. In the meantime, the Michigan State Police will be enforcing the new ruling.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, in a letter to the commission last week, said the Michigan Capitol Commission has the authority to impose a firearms ban in the building, according to Detroit Free Press.
In a statement issued following the commission’s decision, Nessel said the open carry ban does not go far enough.
“Though I appreciate the commission’s decision today to prohibit the open carry of firearms, it’s only a single step down the long path of reforms that are necessary to make our legislators, state employees, and visitors safe in our state Capitol,” Nessel said.
“Firearms—whether explicitly visible or concealed by clothing—possess the same capability to inflict injury and harm on others and only banning open carry does little to meaningfully improve the safety and security of our Capitol,” she said, and urged legislators to pass laws further restricting guns in the state Capitol.
Ahead of Monday’s decision, Michigan was one of only three states that had virtually no firearms regulations in place for its state Capitol, according to the Michigan Advance.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.