LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — The Capitol Commission unanimously voted to ban open carry of firearms inside the State Capitol, just two days before the state legislature reconvenes.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer released the following statement in response:
“No lawmaker, reporter, staff member, or anyone who works in the Michigan Capitol should fear for their safety at work. But in the past year, we have seen a rapid rise in violent rhetoric and threats to public safety that require our immediate action. In April of 2020, armed protestors stormed the Michigan Capitol and stood in the gallery, long guns in hand, looking to intimidate legislators doing their job to serve the people of Michigan. And last week, we saw an armed insurgency occur in our nation’s capitol. This cannot stand. We must take immediate action to protect everyone who steps foot in our state Capitol."
Whitmer said banning open carry guns at the Capitol is a "good start," but urged the commission to ban all weapons at the Capitol.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also released a statement, saying the open carry ban was not enough.
She said in part:
Speaker of the House-elect Jason Wentworth released the following statement in response:
“The Speaker is grateful for the work of the Capitol Commission, but it does not have the authority to set policy in the Capitol. 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. In order to ensure there is no confusion in the Capitol, Speaker Wentworth asks everyone to respect the Michigan State Police and the rules they enforce.”
Michigan's six-member Capitol Commission was established in 2014.
Commissioner Bill Kandler says after years of restoration, they started building an expansion to create space for school tour groups. Then the pandemic hit. Protests increased in intensity, people openly carried guns inside the Capitol during legislative sessions, creating concerns about safety and intimidation of democratically elected leaders the commission's duties expanded.
"Being responsible for gun policy was something that surprised us and we took some time to learn a bit about," Kandler said.
There have been months of discussions.
"How many entrance and exit points do you want to have, how many people coming in and out of the building and how long do you want them to have to wait in line to get in?" Kandler said. "One entrance and 30 minutes? Or several?"
Finally, they assembled a plan to ban open carry and were about to set a date for the vote, then violence erupted in DC.
"That was pretty alarming just to see the mass of humanity overrunning the security there something I never would have imagined would happen," Kandler said.
With Capitol security top of mind, the commission plans to vote and approve a ban on open carry inside the Michigan Capitol building Monday, just in time for the legislative session to begin.
"Democratically elected leaders are debating policy and people with weapons are staring down at them from the gallery that’s just not appropriate and on addition to that we have a lot of school groups with kids as young as fourth grade roaming around the hallway and I don’t think it’s very safe for them to be with people roaming around with guns," Kandler said.