Michigan Capitol Commission discusses banning guns from Capitol Building

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LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Capitol Commission convened via Zoom on Monday to discuss whether armed protests can continue to happen inside the building after a demonstration that both sides can agree got way out of hand.

After hearing from many of its members, the Commission delayed the vote, deciding to take more time to more thoroughly look into the matter.

Both State Attorney General Dana Nessel and State Representative Lee Chatfield spoke on the matter.

RELATED: Attorney general says state commission has authority to prohibit guns in Michigan Capitol

“The vast majority of State capitol buildings all around this country prohibit guns and just like we do in courtrooms all around the states, we ought to be banning guns,” Nessel said.

“The right to keep and bear arms," Chatfield said. "People have a right to do that.”

Nessel issued a formal opinion Monday, concluding that the Michigan State Capitol Commission has legal authority to prohibit firearms in the Capitol building.

Relying on past court decisions and current state laws, Nessel determined the Commission can regulate firearms within the areas under its control, including the inside of the Capitol building.

“I firmly believe in the right to protest, the right to demonstrate, and the right to loudly and strongly object to those causes that move us,” Nessel said. “These rights are so fundamental to our democracy that they are enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution. But it is also important to remember that the right to protest does not encompass the right to violence, or the right to harm those individuals with whom you disagree.”

Nessel sent a letter to the Commission Friday indicating it had the authority to bar firearms at the Capitol, but some commissioners publicly dismissed the letter saying it was not a formal opinion.

The Michigan Capitol Commission is set to vote Monday on whether armed protests can continue to happen inside the building after a demonstration that both sides can agree got way out of hand.

“You have a constitutional right to protest and you have a right to keep and bare arms, but you don’t have a constitutional right to do both at the same time," Chatfield said. "I think we have to be very careful about that.”

Chatfield believes it’s his duty to uphold those constitutional rights regardless of the circumstances.

“Constitutional rights are very important to me and I think it’s only right that we honor those because the people give us our constitution,” Chatfield said.

“If the Capital Commission fails to act tomorrow, I’m very concerned that ultimately they’ll have blood on their hands,” Nessel said.

About the Authors:

Victor Williams joined Local 4 News in October of 2019 after working for WOIO in Cleveland, OH, WLOX News in Biloxi, MS, and WBBJ in Jackson, TN. Victor developed a love for journalism after realizing he was a great speaker and writer at an early age.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.