LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A board overseeing Michigan’s Capitol determined Tuesday that it has the legal authority to decide whether guns will continue to be allowed in the building and on its grounds.
The Michigan State Capitol Commission reviewed a formal legal opinion by attorney Gary P. Gordon that said the board had the power to prohibit firearms at the Capitol.
In April, a number of people carrying semi-automatic weapons and other guns took part in a protest at the Capitol over Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders that closed many businesses in the state to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The “American Patriot Rally” started on the Statehouse steps, where members of the Michigan Liberty Militia stood guard with weapons and tactical gear, their faces partially covered. They later moved inside the Capitol along with several hundred protesters, who demanded to be let onto the House floor, which is prohibited.
Some protesters with guns — which are allowed in the Statehouse — went to the Senate gallery, where a senator said some armed men shouted at her. Some senators wore bulletproof vests.
The commission in May delayed a decision on banning guns. Commissioners are scheduled to meet again on July 13.
Republican Commission Chair Gary Randall implored commissioners to consider the financial implications of banning guns. Detection equipment and other resources could cost at least $250,000.
But Commissioner Joan Bauer, a Democrat, said the issue should be handled as soon as possible. Even though the state will have trouble amid the coronavirus pandemic to find money in the budget, a gun-related tragedy would have a greater impact on the state, she said.
Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.