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Bridge Michigan
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Dana Nessel to Michigan Democrats: Ban concealed guns at state Capitol

Dana Nessel
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said she has spoken to incoming Democratic leaders about a potential gun ban inside the state Capitol. The conversation comes as Democrats eye gun control measures in the new year when they take control of the state Legislature in January. (State of Michigan)
  • Attorney General Dana Nessel wants guns banned at the state Capitol
  • Open firearms were banned last year, but officials said they didn’t have a budget to implement a concealed weapons ban
  • Nessel said more safety is needed in light of kidnapping plot against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

LANSING — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel wants Democrats to ban all guns at the state Capitol when they take control of the Legislature in January.

Officials last year banned the open carrying of firearms at the Capitol last year, but Nessel contends more steps are needed to protect lawmakers and visitors from threats such as one on April 30, 2020, when armed protestors and militia members entered the Capitol and watched state senators at work from above.

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Concealed pistol license holders are still allowed to carry weapons into the building. 

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Nessel said she’d discussed a full ban with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and incoming legislative leaders Sen. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids and Rep. Joe Tate, D-Detroit, according to the Gongwer News Service. She revealed the talks during a Thursday press conference, where she announced the sentencing for three members of the Wolverine Watchmen militia group who plotted to kidnap Whitmer in 2020.  

“I have basically begged (lawmakers) to do something in the way of banning firearms at the Capitol to make sure that we were protecting the public,” Gongwer quoted Nessel as saying. “The very least we can do is to make sure that that close call that we had … never happens again and that there is never such opportunity.”

A Whitmer spokesperson declined comment. Brinks and Tate did not immediately return Friday inquiries from Bridge.

Nessel’s request comes as Democrats vow to prioritize gun control measures in the new year

Democratic leaders previously told Bridge Michigan they plan to focus on three areas of gun control: universal background checks, “red flag” laws that allow judges to temporarily confiscate guns from people posing a threat to themselves or others, and safe storage laws, which would require gun owners to keep their firearms in a secure fashion. 

Due to funding and data shortfalls, a limited number of studies show mixed results on the effectiveness of those laws. Most existing studies show such laws help reduce firearm-related deaths and injuries, but scholars say more research is needed. 

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After nearly a year of debates, the Michigan State Capitol Commission barred openly carried guns at the Capitol in January 2021, but stopped short of a full ban, arguing it didn’t have the budget or staffing to check for concealed weapons.

The six-member Capitol Commission, which is a separate entity that oversees the Capitol, said lawmakers would have to increase its budget to pay for metal detectors to implement a wider ban. At the time, Republicans resistant of gun control measures were in charge of the Legislature.

Unless carried by state and federal law enforcement officers, guns are banned in the U.S. Capitol and other federal facilities. Guns are also banned in state courtrooms, and a 2018 Supreme Court ruling gave school districts the authority to ban guns on their property.

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