Michigan officials look at banning guns inside state Capitol after armed 'reopen' protests

Michigan officials look at banning guns inside state Capitol after armed 'reopen' protests
© Getty Images

John Truscott, vice chairman of the Michigan State Capitol Commission, said the body, which is charged with managing and maintaining the state Capitol and surrounding grounds, is looking into options for a possible gun ban inside the building after protesters entered the state Capitol brandishing firearms last week

Truscott told The Hill on Tuesday that the commission had been reviewing a century-old open carry law and pressed its legal counsel for advice on the matter, adding that she will be presenting her work to the commission at a meeting on Monday.

However, Truscott said, at this time, it doesn’t appear the commission will have the power to ban firearms inside the Capitol, pointing to the state’s open carry law, which he noted includes no “prohibition in the Capitol building itself.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“From what we know and the updated advice from our lawyers, that’s what it appears,” he said. “We’ll learn more on Monday but that’s, I’m assuming, going to be the conclusion.”

The best bet for a gun ban in the statehouse, Truscott said, would be if the state Legislature passed a law doing so.

“When it comes to what’s allowed in and out, that’s something that’s going to have to be determined by a legislature,” he said.

However, Truscott said he doesn’t think it’s likely the state’s GOP-led Legislature will pass such a measure anytime soon, pointing to recent remarks made by Lee Chatfield (R), Speaker of the state House, who said he wouldn’t back a gun ban in the statehouse because it’s the “people's house,” according to the Detroit Free Press.

“Things may change,” Truscott said. “We may get some more information next week, I really don’t know, but at least, early indications from the Speaker of the House is that he’s comfortable with the law the way it is.”

His remarks come after hundreds of demonstrators, some of whom were armed, descended on the state Capitol last week to protest Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) stay-at-home order. 

ADVERTISEMENT

In footage of the demonstration, which was dubbed the "American Patriot Rally," protesters could be seen carrying firearms inside the statehouse and calling for lawmakers to reopen businesses that had been closed temporarily during the pandemic. Some protesters also could be seen with Confederate flags and swastikas.

Whitmer on Sunday condemned the protests, which she said “depicted some of the worst racism and awful parts of our history in this country.”

“The behavior you've seen in all of the clips is not representative of who we are in Michigan,” she also said.

However, President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick MORE defended the protesters in a tweet Friday, saying they were “very good people.”

“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry,” he wrote. “They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

Though Truscott said on Tuesday that he is a supporter of the Second Amendment, he added that he doesn’t think there is any “reason to bring loaded rifles into the building.”

“I just don’t see it,” Truscott said.

While last week wasn’t the first time citizens brought firearms into the statehouse for a rally or demonstration, Truscott said “last Thursday was different.”

“It was much more aggressive,” he told The Hill. “This was the first time I heard staff being concerned, when before, they really weren’t.”

“We’ve kind of entered a different era in terms of how people approach this issue and it’s going to take action by the Legislature to change it, which I really don’t expect,” he added.