Michigan governor backs banning guns inside state Capitol after armed 'reopen' protest

Michigan governor backs banning guns inside state Capitol after armed 'reopen' protest
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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said this week that she is in favor of banning guns from being brought inside the state Capitol after protesters entered the building brandishing firearms last week. 

“There are legislators who are wearing bulletproof vests to go to work,” Whitmer told NBC News in an interview on Wednesday. "No one should be intimidated by someone who's bringing in an assault rifle into their workplace.”

“And so there is conversation about changing that law,” she continued. “I think it's long overdue, and I absolutely support that change. You shouldn't be intimidated going to be the voice of the people who elected you.”

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Hundreds of demonstrators, some of them armed, descended on the Capitol last week to protest the governor’s stay-at-home order and demand that she and state legislators reopen businesses in Michigan, a state that has been among those hardest-hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

While Whitmer said in her interview that there’s “no question that there's intense pressure to reopen, whether it's coming from the White House or the people of our state,” she maintained that data collected so far about the international outbreak “tells us COVID-19 is still a very real threat in this country, all across the country.”

“So while we've been able to achieve some flattening of the curve, we are by no means done with COVID-19, and that's why we've got to be really smart,” she said.

Whitmer also said politics are in play, including the fact that she's on presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden chips away at Trump's fundraising advantage The Memo: Trump grows weak as clock ticks down Nina Turner addresses Biden's search for a running mate MORE’s shortlist of possible running mates.

“I think that you could conclude that there is a definite political component here,” she told NBC News.

“These protests were more like political rallies, and then you've got the partisan propaganda,’ she told the paper. “You saw the signs that people made. This was a political statement, because Michigan is an important state and the 2020 presidential election is looming.”

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In addition to brandishing guns at the protest at the state Capitol last week, some demonstrators were also seen with swastikas and Confederate flags in footage that emerged online afterward.

Whitmer said the demonstration “really felt more like a political rally than anything else.” 

Earlier this week, John Truscott, vice chairman of the Michigan State Capitol Commission, the body that manages and maintains the Capitol and surrounding grounds, told The Hill that the commission was looking into options for a possible gun ban inside the building following last week's protest.

Truscott said the commission had pressed its legal counsel for advice on the matter and been reviewing the state’s open-carry law to determine if the body has the power to ban firearms inside the building.

However, although Truscott said the commission is set to have a meeting on Monday about the issue, he added that, so far, it doesn’t appear as though the commission has the authority to implement such a ban given the state’s open carry law, which he noted does not include a “prohibition in the Capitol building itself.”

Truscott said the best shot the state has at a possible gun ban in the state Capitol would be if the state’s GOP-controlled Legislature passed a law itself doing so — something Truscott doesn’t see happening anytime soon given recent comments state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R) made defending Michiganders right to take a gun into the Capitol.

“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.”