LANSING, Mich. — Americans are still reeling from this Wednesday's assault on the U.S. Capitol building, and capital cities like Lansing are feeling the pressure to address security measures as Inauguration Day approaches.
State Attorney General Dana Nessel didn’t mince words about her concerns.
“Let me say this in no uncertain terms: our state Capitol is not safe,” Nessel said.
For Nessel and state Rep. Sarah Anthony, the attack on the U.S. Capitol felt all too familiar.
A protest at the Michigan state Capitol became national news back in April after a group of men armed with rifles entered the public gallery, intimidating senators on the floor.
“I was absolutely shocked the Capitol police were not better prepared after seeing what happened here in Lansing,” Nessel said.
Anthony recalled the tumultuous events that have left Michigan lawmakers and officials feeling uneasy as they prepare to enter the new session.
“We’ve had armed gunmen in the Capitol. There was a credible terrorist plot to kidnap our governor in this state. There was a plot to inflict harm on lawmakers in this state. We’ve had bomb threats in the Capitol even this week. All of these are credible threats,” she said.
Anthony, a Democrat from Lansing, has pushed for the Capitol Commission to ban firearms but the debate around security measures continues.
Republican state Sen. Mike Shirkey threw his support behind banning open carry firearms in the Capitol on Thursday after resisting such a ban for months.
Mike McDaniels is a former homeland security adviser for the state of Michigan and a professor of national security law at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He says it's time to move forward.
“I absolutely agree with Senate Majority Leader Shirkey that we should abolish firearms from inside the Capitol. There’s no place for that,” McDaniels said.
Lansing’s Capitol is closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic but security remains a top priority.
David Clark of the Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice says threat prevention is the best way to secure the Capitol.
“Basically they have to identify the threats through intelligence threat assessment. So, how do you do this? Well now, particularly for these groups, the easiest way is through social media exploitation” Clark said.
According to Clark, threat assessment in a digital age requires law enforcement to track larger themes and discussions that could represent credible threats instead of focusing on individual statements.
“You’ve got to have more than just someone that says something that sounds offensive or threatening,” Clark continued.
Several Michigan House Democrats, including Anthony, are calling for an emergency Capitol Commission meeting to discuss steps to secure the building before the legislature returns to session.
“I just need the Capitol Commission to know it’s not a matter of if something happens in that building it’s truly a matter of when,” Anthony said.
The state legislature is set to return to session at the Capitol on January 13th. There’s still no word on if the Capitol Commission plans to hold an emergency meeting.
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