Gun ban unlikely at Michigan Capitol, despite plot to storm it, take hostages

Michigan militia members came to the state Capitol building for rallies earlier this year. Those charged by the FBI first planned to target the building. (Bridge file photo by Jonathan Oosting)

Oct. 16 update: Jocelyn Benson bans open carry of guns at Michigan polls on Election Day

Ongoing updates: Plot to kidnap Whitmer | Who's charged, what's next?

LANSING — Regulators are unlikely to ban guns at the Michigan Capitol, despite FBI charges against six men accused of plotting to storm the building with weapons and kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Security is lax at the Michigan Capitol, which lacks metal detectors or bag checks as are required at many other state buildings. On a typical day, one or two Capitol police officers are the primary security.

For months, a bipartisan group that oversees the Capitol has debated whether it can ban guns. No is still likely the answer, despite renewed calls to do so following the charges alleging six militia members tried to rally at least 200 men to overthrow the state government. 

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Legal opinions have cleared the six-member Capitol Commission to follow the lead of most states and ban guns, but the group’s vice chair, John Truscott, said the decision is best left to the state Legislature.

“I look at it, personally, putting myself in the shoes of state police. You have an unelected, unaccountable body and people want us to tell law enforcement the rules and the laws that they have to enforce,” said Truscott, a longtime Republican consultant, told Bridge Michigan on Thursday.

The group has debated a ban since an April 30 protest spilled into the Capitol, bringing militia members and other armed activists into a balcony overlooking the Senate floor.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, told reporters Thursday afternoon that he's "having further conversations" with commissioners about a potential gun ban, but indicated he doesn't think increased security measures could adequately protect against the kind of threat the FBI is alleging.

“There is no way in a country like ours that we can legislate and get rid of all risk. If we did that it would not be a country that any of us would like, nor would we recognize,” he said.

Federal documents filed Thursday accuse three of the alleged plotters of meeting with militia members at an "American Patriot” rally at the Capitol on June 18.

Days before, they had talked about storming the Capitol, taking Whitmer and other hostages and trying her for treason, prosecutors allege. Eventually, the group opted for a lower profile as their plot continued, attorneys claim.

"When the time comes there will be no need to try and strike fear through presence,” one of the accused plotters, Brian Caserta, allegedly said. “That fear will be manifested through bullets."

On Thursday, hours after the charges were announced, Republican public relations consultant John Sellek wrote on Twitter that the “Capitol Commission must stop delaying and take action now."

Others noted that no changes have been implemented since many legislators expressed fears for their safety after the armed protest last spring.

Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, said “I was sick to my stomach” when she heard about the plot. 

Banning guns in the Capitol “should have been done a long time ago … it’s a place where political tensions are high and it’s divisive. I said in a floor speech back in May that it takes one person. And this was a group of six.”

McMorrow was on the Senate floor when protesters with guns stood in a gallery overlooking lawmakers. “We’re supposed to stand there and say that it doesn’t intimidate us. But there’s no way that you can stand on the floor below a gallery of men dressed in full tactical gear with rifles and not feel intimidated.”

“Those of us who raised concerns were told that we were overreacting and that we should respect their right to carry firearms into the Capitol,” state Rep. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, wrote on Twitter.

“Today, we learned some of them had plans to come back, to ‘storm the Capitol,’ to take hostages, and to kidnap Governor Whitmer. To say this is frightening, is a significant understatement.” 

State Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden, D-Southfield, wrote on Twitter “when I expressed how terrified I was to be at work while armed militia stormed the Michigan Capitol (with nooses, confederate flags, and swastikas)...I was told I was overreacting....” 

The Capitol Commission was set to meet next week, but the meeting was canceled. The next meeting will likely be in mid-November, Truscott said. 

Bridge reporter Jonathan Oosting contributed to this report.

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Thu, 10/08/2020 - 11:16pm

The majority of people in the state don't want these fools marching around the capitol intimidating people with their assault rifles. It seems that those in charge have turned the asylum over to the inmates. Can't wait for the end of gerrymandering and a return to common sense in this state.

G Scott
Fri, 10/09/2020 - 6:32am

So, it's a safe idea to allow people as such to walk around the capital with loaded weapons and empty thoughts. What could go wrong? What is wrong with the Republican leadership in this state?

Dave Levi
Fri, 10/09/2020 - 9:04am

Can we start a petition drive and get this question on the ballot for a future election?

George Hagenauer
Fri, 10/09/2020 - 9:17am

Quite obviously Republican legislators don't know much about the history of gun violence in legislatures in the Nation's Capitol and across the country. In the post World War 2 era - we have seen attacks on Congress in 1954 by Puerto Rican Independistas and a wide range of legislators from both sides of the aisles killed or shot in attacks across the country. To not ban guns at the Capitol and do the basic protections like metal detectors as you enter the building is the height of stupidity and lack of common sense.

Fri, 10/09/2020 - 10:24am

Don't expect Republicans to ban guns at the capitol. As Joe Lapointe writes in "Deadline Detroit", our state is ruled by "hicks from the sticks"! Putting an end to gerrymandering in the state will be a step in the right direction.

Johnny G
Fri, 10/09/2020 - 10:32am

Their waiting for a political figure to get shot before they ban GUNS at the Michigan Capital.

Fri, 10/09/2020 - 11:08am

Too bad that the Capitol Commission and Senate and House leaders don't recall that nationalist shot up the US House in the early 1950s. And House members were lucky that the AK 47s, etc., were not available otherwise there would have been carnage.

Lucinda Martin
Fri, 10/09/2020 - 12:06pm

We are in the process of moving back to Michigan after years of living in Phoenix. It saddens me to read about the plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer. Why is there no security at the Capitol?? Time for checking bags and outlawing firearms and weapons. The people of Michigan deserve a secure place for their leaders.

Fri, 10/09/2020 - 2:20pm

It is too bad that the Capitol commission keeps putting off rules about not having guns in the Capitol including in House and Senate chambers. I recall that nationalists were in the US House in the early 1950s and fired a number of shots. I cannot recall if anyone was injured but the assailants used pistols but now people have AK 47s that can unleash a barrage of bullets that can kill and maim indiscriminately.

Maybe the Commission should take a look back at history and think smartly.

John Grimes 70
Fri, 10/09/2020 - 2:42pm

The time has come for state wide referendum to prohibit weapons on the state of Michigan capital grounds!Try to enter any county courthouse in the state without going thru a metal detector. All it takes is one mentally deficient militia moron with a AR15 and a 30 round magazine to kill are elected officials by the dozens. Open carry is a invitation for mayhem!

Sun, 10/11/2020 - 9:55am

What are you waiting for/ There is no place for guns in the Capital especially AR 15 and other assault weapons. Are you afraid of not getting re elected? Get real. Peace R.L.

Sun, 10/11/2020 - 5:06pm

This is insane. Has everyone in the Republican Party lost their mind? Are they waiting for 30 or 40 people to be killed before they do something about security. Written by an Eisenhower Republican who will not vote for another Republican until the party gets its moral compass back.

middle of the mit
Sun, 10/11/2020 - 8:50pm

Bring YOUR Potato launchers! NO FAKE! You have to make sure that they ARE fire arms. Clean the parts, prepare them, use both the primer and mixer!

Make sure that your launcher IS Firearm capable. If it is may be inadmissible for a firearm. Don't put a potato in it. But do a put a fitting that will accept a screw at the end....before the .............and don't put a cap on it/ OH no! YOU have to have a secured end cap.........with a screw ending on it.

I am going assume.......with me being a former member of this party..........and since they have the Authority to keep themselves safe from everything BUT COVID.......and people with AR-15's......they want a FUNCTIONING arm. Make sure yours does..............then bring it.........without the end cap.


Bridge........the only reason I went this in depth........without going too far in depth? It is THE ONLY way to get the FIRST amendment into the capital. I didn't stop the capitol from relagating the first amendment something that has nothing to do with democracy and is subservient to the second amendment. The PRESS allowed that! I am here to try to get you to stop succumbing to those who have not your best interest in mind. Unless of course you want to BE Tucker Carlson!

The only people packing the court in today's society? How many court appointments was Obama denied? DESPITE HIS CONSTITUTIONAL OBLIGATION TO FILL THOSE SEATS? And then Mitch gets a pass on all of it.................

That is NOT partisan.........................and you KNOW it!

I am going to use conservative terms.........because it seems they are the only ones people listen to.

Pull up your britches boys and girls! WE got work to do! This isn't for the weak at heart! If you can't stand the heat? GET OUT of the Kitchen!

Why do I have to use terminology from conservatives? I only LIKE doing it..........when I am shoving it down their throats! I like to use their talking points AGAINST THEM, and now the press is MAKING ME USE THEIR TALKING POINTS just so I can get a comment posted?

This IS what IS wrong with America. WE can't BE united because there is tooo much PROFIT in division.

That and Publicons think I am Karl Marx reincarnated!

The REAL problem?
The Communist Manifesto -
an 1848 political document by German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

Shall we do some history and math? LOL!

"From each according his ability to each according to his needs" (I am going to highlight, copy and paste it into MY browser. Shall we see what you get?),_to_eac... (1st result) (5th result)

Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brothers which dwelled in Judaea: every. Ezra 2:69 They gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests' garments.

See? Conservatives are reticent to admit that their religion IS base on NOT Marxism...............but Christianity! And what the Holy Spirit Endowed them with. Don't blame me because they can't see.