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Michigan AG expected to issue formal opinion saying commission can ban guns at Michigan Capitol

Posted at 8:53 PM, May 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-10 23:38:27-04

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan’s Attorney General says she plans to issue a formal legal opinion Monday saying the Michigan State Capitol Commission can legally ban firearms there if it decides to do so.

It comes after the commission received questions on the issue following a rally at the end of April where some protestors went into the building with various types of firearms and shouted at lawmakers.

“This is not how democracy outta [sic] operate,” said Nessel.

It would be the third Opinion of the Attorney General issued by Nessel since she took office in 2019.

She sent a letter to the commission Friday laying out the legality of the decision, but Nessel tells FOX17 the commission said it could not rely specifically on that letter when making a decision because it’s not a formal opinion.

Nessel says if the commission votes yes, an OAG is seen as a valid and binding interpretation of the law unless a court decides otherwise.

In the letter, Nessel says the commission would be vested in its legal authority, “to ensure the safety of the visiting public, as well as those who carry out the People’s work.”

Nessel explains because the commission is not a local unit of government, they can prohibit guns, citing a pair of Michigan Supreme Court rulings. She also pointed to a Michigan Supreme Court administrative order that prohibits weapons in courtrooms across the state and a similar guidance issued in 2018 by her predecessor Bill Schuette.

“Firearms can be restricted in public spaces if there is a legitimately safety or security concern,” said Nessel. “People have second amendment rights, certainly they do, but they don’t have the unfettered right to carry a concealed weapon or to open carry any place they want. There’s certainly many public spaces where they are prohibited from carrying a weapon.”

Nessel added if the commission voted to ban signs in the Capitol like they did in 2012, they can vote to prohibit firearms.

“If the commission can say, ‘You can’t carry signs in the building to protect property,’ certainly they can limit firearms from being brought into the building to preserve human life,” said Nessel.
Nessel says if the commission votes no on the issue because they think it’s a decision for the legislature, she fears for the safety of those who work and visit the Capitol.

“If you were a librarian and you worked at a public library, could you imagine if you had an armed gunman standing there and screaming at you while you did your job?” asked Nessel. “Why do we have any different expectations in terms of what we expect from our legislators and the conditions under which they ought to be able to work?”

“I want to respect each and every person’s constitutional rights but everybody also has a right not to be killed,” said Nessel. “If they’re allowed to bring weapons and they do carry that criminal intent, there’s literally nothing to stop a mass shooting. All we’re asking the commission to do is utilize their authority.”

FOX17 reached out to the chairman and vice chairman of the commission for a comment but have not heard back.

John Truscott, the vice chairman of the commission, has previously said the panel does not have jurisdiction to prohibit weapons and it’s a “legislative function.”