LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Guns cannot be banned from Michigan's Capitol unless legislators change state law, an official who helps oversee the building said Wednesday, less than a week after some protesters armed with rifles shouted at lawmakers inside the Senate chamber.
John Truscott, vice chairman of the Michigan State Capitol Commission, said he received "early indications" from the panel's lawyer that "we do not have jurisdictions to prohibit weapons in the building. That's a legislative function."
It appears unlikely the Republican-led Legislature would restrict guns in the Statehouse. GOP leaders didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
The six-member panel will still meet Monday to discuss the issue after getting many questions following the protest by hundreds of conservatives angry over Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's restrictions to curb the coronavirus.
Michigan law does not prohibit people from openly carrying a gun in public. They can carry a concealed pistol with a permit except in schools, day care centers, sports arenas, bars, places of worship, large entertainment facilities, hospitals, and college dorms and classrooms.
It is not unusual see people with guns inside and outside the Capitol when there are pro-Second Amendment rallies.
Truscott said in the past, such demonstrators were under control, respectful and "it's never been a problem."
Last week, however, staff "felt that these individuals were not there necessarily to just speak their mind. They took a threatening stance, which is different than what's ever happened before," he said.
A senator reported that some armed men in the gallery shouted down at senators who were meeting amid debate over extending Whitmer's emergency declaration. Others with assault rifles were among a larger crowd that chanted "let us in" at sergeants and police outside the House chamber, which was closed to the public to make room for representatives to socially distance.
"It was the menacing nature, the fingers near the trigger," Truscott said. "There is no reason to be in the Capitol building with your finger near the trigger."
The "American Patriot Rally" started on the Capitol steps, where members of the Michigan Liberty Militia stood guard with weapons and tactical gear, their faces partially covered. An organizer has said he invited the militia to be "security."
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Clarklake Republican, said last week that many citizens had protested safely and responsibly, but he condemned "jackasses" who had "used intimidation and the threat of physical harm to stir up fear and feed rancor." Democrats also said the actions were meant to intimidate lawmakers.
Firearms are prohibited at the U.S. Capitol building.
Last September, Democratic state Sen. Jeremy Moss of Southfield introduced a bill that would end a ban on signs in the state Capitol building, noting people can carry guns inside. No committee hearing has been held on the legislation.
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