Why a Capitol gun ban isn’t likely

Republican appointees unlikely to budge on Capitol Commission


You can’t bring a gun into the Ingham County Courthouse. Security and a metal detector greets you at the Michigan Hall of Justice and most state office buildings.

But the state Capitol? You’ve been allowed to carry in a weapon since the building’s 1879 dedication.

Legislators have long viewed the building as “the people’s house.” Publicly, they’ve argued against inconveniencing visitors. Dumping change and keys into little baskets. Running bags through an X-ray machine. Standing in line for God knows how long. It’s a hassle.

Every year or so, Democrats cringe and school groups cancel tours when Open Carry Day rolls around. Second Amendment types parade around the building. They proudly strap their firearms to their side or fling it across their shoulder.

Republicans — many of whom grew up with guns being used for recreational purposes —tend to applaud the display. Democrats — many of whom represent areas where gun use is viewed as an agent of creating senseless violence — question the wisdom of it all.

A portion of the April 30 Patriot Protest wasn’t your typical, controlled exhibition of how to safely own a gun. A small contingent pretended they were some patriotic guerrilla force charged with reopening government for the people.

Clad in their camos, they hung around the Capitol gallery for a while. They showed off their long guns as they watched the goings-on of the Senate.

A harmless display by liberty-minded individuals trying to make a point? Some senators on the right side of the aisle felt so. Others did not.

Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, lost a friend to the Virginia Tech shooting of 2007. She told the Senate that while it’s clear that the few people involved in these acts of violence didn’t represent a majority, “nobody stopped them.”

“Yeah, we’re supposed to stand up here and say that we are brave and we’re not intimidated, but guess what? That is damn intimidating. This is intimidation. And my question back is, ‘What the hell are we going to do about it? Or do we wait until something happens?”

“It only takes one person to change everything forever.”

Thrust into the middle is the six-member Capitol Commission. Officially, they’re building’s caretakers. Unofficially, they’re the public fall guy for a controversy that’s making people forget that we’ve all been “staying in place” since March 24.

Four of the six members owe their positions to the Republican-led legislative leadership. That’s a majority. Officially, the Capitol Commission is now studying the issue. Unofficially, they’re in a bind. The governor is putting pressure on them to act one way. The people who put them in the position they are in don’t want them to.

The Republican-led House and Senate are not about to ban guns from their respective floors. It’s their call if they want to do it and they won’t. Period.

“The votes aren’t there,” House Majority Floor Leader Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, told me the other day.

For one, several members carry concealed. Second, it looks bad to one of the few remaining rock-solid constituent groups Republicans can count on in 2020. The Second Amendment, pro-gun crowd.

To fold under pressure and deflate these supporters when President Trump’s reelection chances and the Michigan House’s GOP majority are already in a precarious state isn’t politically wise.

To allow guns on the House and Senate floor, but not in the rest of the Capitol building is nonsensical. In short, guns likely will remain in the Capitol for the foreseeable future.

Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, who brought his gun with him to the 2020 State of the State put it this way, “The first and last conference call with all lawmakers was well over a month ago and now she is concerned about us? The governor has wanted to ban guns in the Capitol for 20 years.”

He then quoted former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, “’Never allow a good crisis go to waste. It’s an opportunity to do the things you once thought were impossible.”

Damage control is well underway. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey wants State Police to arrest anyone caught “brandishing” their weapon.

Michigan United for Liberty is urging anyone showing up to their Thursday protest to temper the message. No verbal or physical-looking threats aimed toward the Governor or anyone else.

It may not be enough to dial down the public pressure, but they’re giving it a shot.

(Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS is at melinnky@gmail.com.)


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