Michigan lawmakers return to Capitol with new safety protocols

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — State lawmakers returned to work at the Capitol Wednesday afternoon with a number of new safety protocols.

As lawmakers worked to pass resolutions, state police could be seen patrolling the Capitol lawn on bikes and on foot for most of the afternoon.

In the front lobby, there were signs up telling visitors that an open carry ban is now in effect.

“I am mostly concerned about the safety of my colleagues and my fellow citizens,” said State Rep. David LaGrand of Grand Rapids.

This comes after tempers reached a boiling point at the U.S. Capitol exactly one week ago resulting in a deadly riot.

“I think obviously after what we saw last week, everyone is on edge a little bit with security at facilities like this, but I have a lot of confidence in our Michigan State Police and those in charge of security,” said State Rep. Terry Sabo of Muskegon.

As warnings of protests this weekend and on Inauguration Day continue, police are also planning to add a protective barrier around the Capitol. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer say she is not aware of a specific threat of violence against the Michigan Capitol this weekend but law enforcement continues to monitor “chatter” after the FBI warned of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals. 

Some lawmakers say the new measures are a bit extreme.

“I know the pictures of the people with long guns in the Senate. That to me is understandable why people would feel afraid with that, but I think we have a long history here of not having a problem (with open carry),” said Luke Meerman who represents Ottawa County.

Meerman says he would feel more secure if people were allowed to continue exercising their Second Amendment rights at the Capitol.

“I know that things have happened in the past that, frankly, people have pushed the limits and put us in bad position, but I don’t think it’s the Capitol Commission’s place to determine that kind of thing (open carry ban),” Meerman said. “I do appreciate all that’s been done to keep us safe here, the extra police presence.”

Other lawmakers say the open carry ban is a great first step.

“Frankly, my goal would be to have our Capitol look a lot like a courthouse. In other words, you’re not allowed to have weapons inside the Capitol at all,” LaGrand said.

The Grand Rapids representative says in his opinion, there’s never a legitimate reason for a regular civilian to carry a gun into a state building, referring to long barrel guns as instruments of terror.

“The vast majority of times when weapons are used to stop something bad, the overwhelming majority of the time it’s by professionally trained individuals, police officers, law enforcement. The fantasy of the civilian who somehow stopped something is an incredibly rare event. The number of accidental misuse of guns by civilians is incredibly high. This is simply a numbers thing,” LaGrand said.

On Friday, police will start assembling the barrier wall around the Capitol.

“From my perspective, we have to take it one day at a time and make sure we’re aware of our surroundings and do our own part to keep ourselves safe,” Sabo said.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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