Feb. 10 2011 12:00 AM

Library patrons are worried about guns openly carried in the library; gun owners fear for their own safety without them

Thursday, Feb. 10 — The Capital Area District Library took a formal stance on its no-weapons policy Wednesday, citing “alarm and panic” from staff and patrons when guns are openly carried in the library.

Yet one of the men who openly carried his handgun through the library last month said he worries for his own protection when he’s not allowed to carry a gun.

“I have a right to defend myself,” 30-year-old Phillip Hofmeister said Wednesday on “City Pulse on the Air.”

Asked whom he might have to defend himself against, Hofmeister referred to people congregating outside the library. “Some of them don’t look exactly friendly. People that look at you when you walk out. Like people that are in need of something and they might try and get it from you,” he said.

Hofmeister admitted that he has never had to use his gun to fend off an attack, but he fears he might have to someday. “You can’t guarantee I won’t be attacked.”

The library reasons differently. It says guns in the open are causing more fear, not less.

“Carrying weapons is in direct violation of CADL’s Code of Conduct and is also causing a great deal of alarm and panic among staff and patrons,” CADL Director Lance Werner said in the release.

CADL’s statement also says that a staff member had to leave work because she didn’t feel comfortable. Werner could not be reached for comment.

Hofmeister said members of the gun rights group Michigan Open Carry, like himself, aren’t necessarily protesting when they walk through with their guns. During the first open carry incident at the downtown library Dec. 11, a man walked through with a shotgun strapped to his shoulder.

“I wouldn’t consider it a protest. I’m going about my daily life,” Hofmeister said. “Wherever I go, I have my firearm.”

Michigan Open Carry claims the library’s policy is illegal and the library board does not have the authority to ban guns because the library doesn’t qualify as a “pistol free zone,” like a church, school or arena. Werner has said that patrons who are licensed can still carry a concealed weapon in the library.

Hofmeister said he understands some people in our culture have “an innate fear of handguns,” but adds that guns are just “tools for self-defense” and he has the right to carry them. Not everyone likes strip clubs or alcohol, but those are allowed, he reasoned.

“Some conservatives are afraid of pornography. But we respect each other’s rights,” he said.

Hofmeister said a gun is a more reasonable option for self-defense, unlike traveling with a bodyguard or police officer at all times.

While Hofmeister calls it self-defense, the library says it could lead to a messier situation.

“One of the larger concerns is that patrons could misread a stuation and attempt to disarm a gun carrying MOC visitor,” according to Wednesday’s statement. The library also has had to hire more security guards because the Lansing Police Department “stopped responding to CADL’s calls for assistance.”

Lt. Noel Garcia, public information officer with LPD, could not be reached for comment.

The two sides could be stirring a pot that leads to a court ruling. According to CADL, that’s the only way the policy will change.

“CADL’s weapon’s policy will continue to be enforced unless the Board is otherwise instructed by a court of law,” the statement reads.