Michigan lawmaker seeks Capitol gun ban ahead of coronavirus protest

Concerns over safety inside the statehouse are top-of-mind for some Democratic lawmakers after armed demonstrators entered the building in April to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s economic restrictions to limit coronavirus spread. (Bridge photo by Dale Young)

Democrats in the Michigan Legislature are continuing their calls for more stringent gun regulations in the state Capitol building ahead of an expected demonstration Thursday that could attract more armed protesters against state coronavirus lockdown orders. 

Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, said she would introduce a resolution Tuesday that would call for a ban on firearms in the building, the day after a six-person Capitol commission declined to do so and instead set up another committee to study potential regulations. 

“Intimidating legislators, staff, and visitors with guns during session is an affront to the democratic process,” Polehanki said in a statement. “If the Michigan Capitol Commission is going to squander its opportunity to keep this historical building a safe and inviting place for people of all ages, I am more than happy to continue the call for prohibiting firearms from the Capitol.” 

Visitors and staff in the Michigan Capitol building are currently allowed to openly carry or conceal guns, a policy that returned to the spotlight after an April 30 protest of the restrictions Gov. Gretchen Whitmer put in place intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including a stay-at-home order and closure of businesses and schools. Militia members and other armed demonstrators brought rifles into the Capitol building, pushed to get onto the House floor and stood over lawmakers in the Senate balcony. 

Sen. Sylvia Santana of Detroit wore a bulletproof vest that day; Rep. Sarah Anthony of Lansing came to the building the next week accompanied by an armed escort herself to protest what she said were the protesters’ tactics of “intimidation and fear.”

Resolutions don’t carry the force of law and instead show the Legislature’s sentiment or intent on a given issue. If put up for a vote, it could show where lawmakers stand — but that’s a big if. The majority party in the Legislature (Republicans) determines whether a resolution will come up for consideration and GOP House and Senate leaders have stated their support for gun rights. 

The office of Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning, but on the Senate floor, he Shirkey urged the governor and attorney general to arrest those threatening others and brandishing weapons on a case-by-case basis rather than taking the "cowardly" route of banning guns through the Capitol Commission.

Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield are longstanding Second Amendment advocates. Shirkey wrote on Facebook after the April 30 protest that he appreciated those who demonstrated safely but said those who “used intimidation and the threat of physical harm to stir up fear and feed rancor” were “a bunch of jackasses.”

Still, Shirkey sent a letter to the Capitol Commission Tuesday morning urging them to delay a commission vote on gun access in the Capitol as commission members weigh the balance between what he said is a citizen’s right to freely demonstrate at the capitol with lawmakers’ expectation of personal safety. 

“This topic has already generated much debate as it is an issue with passionate advocates on both sides,” Shirkey said. “As you know, there is rarely a clear policy solution when a debate of individual liberties intersects with concerns about individual safety and security.”

Members of the Republican-dominated commission questioned whether they have the legal authority to pass a ban, despite Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel weighing in Friday with a formal opinion concluding that they do. Shortly before the commission was set to meet Monday, she tweeted that if they choose not to ban guns “it will not be because they lack the legal authority to do so, but rather because they lack the will.”

Democratic lawmakers expressed frustration with the commission’s decision to wait to decide on Capitol gun policy — though chairman Gary Randall said Monday it was not trying to “stonewall” the debate — in light of another protest scheduled by Michigan United for Liberty in Lansing on Thursday. 

Detroit Metro Times reported Monday that private, anti-quarantine Facebook groups shared violent threats against officials, including Whitmer, ahead of the protest. 

One man reportedly wrote “we haven’t had any bloodshed yet, but the populace is counting to three, and the other day was two,” while another said he hopes protesters attend the rally “armed to the teeth.”

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Tue, 05/12/2020 - 12:00pm

Did someone point a gun at someone else in all this? If so arrest them! Or are we now just going to pass laws based on discomfort or being scared? Another hint, ignore these guys and they'll go away, guns are uncomfortable to tote around for the guys carrying them!!

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 12:24pm

I am glad that these stasi pigs are so boldly popping their heads up so that they can be added to the list of stasi pigs/sympathizers. Will be very useful someday.

Kevin Grand
Tue, 05/12/2020 - 12:36pm

Hey, if these elected officials cannot bear the repercussions of their actions, they sbould just do us all a favor and just tender their resignations.

They won't get a ban.

End of story.

Wed, 05/13/2020 - 10:43am

Where were you people when Snyder was poisoning poor peoples water? You care more about not being able to get a hair cut or buy grass seed then you do people actually being literally poisoned. Conservatives are just blatantly openly evil now.

Kevin Grand
Wed, 05/13/2020 - 5:23pm

Certainly NOT supporting Slick Rick, if that's what you mean.

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 12:42pm

ATTENTION all bureaucratic snowflakes in Michigan :
If law-abiding armed citizens threaten your delicate sensitivity - GOOD.
Stop acting like petty tyrants and realize who you work for. You know, the very people that you've forbade to support their families. Maybe you should look long and hard in the mirror and ask yourselves WHY people are upset. That is, if you can take a break from being virtue signalling victims long enough to do so... When you can go two months without a paycheck because some "homeowner's association-wannabe" hypocrite deems it so - THEN we can have a discussion.

Funny how nobody ever gets arrested with police just feet away. Yup - stick to that narrative. The media will gladly carry the water for you!

Wed, 05/13/2020 - 10:45am

They work for all of us and guess what numb nuts, over 70% of the country still supports lock downs in poll after poll after poll. You only think you are the majority because you are loud assholes and everyone else is staying inside like rational adults following the advice of health care experts. Its only you children who must risk the life of health care workers because you children cant stand a lack of hair cuts or grass seed. Pathetic.

Livonia Hockey Mom
Tue, 05/12/2020 - 12:49pm

Thank you, Sen Polehanki, we're already suffering immensely from this horrific health scare, depression-era job losses, and the greatly diminished education of our children. I'm okay with people protesting, if they feel they must, as long as they abide by the mandated social distancing and wearing of masks, but I don't see why vigilantes with guns need to storm the capitol building and needlessly threaten our legislators, again and again.

What is the point? Were they scoping out the layout of the seating at the last protest so they can assassinate our representatives when they return? There is extremely dangerous and violent rhetoric online about some of these "protestors" wanting to harm the governor. These threats along with the intimidation to our elected officials combined with the actual presence of guns seem like a potentially imminent attack on our elected officials and has no place in the governing of our country. We cannot tolerate this Banana Republic behavior in Michigan.

No one would want to work under such circumstances. Are these protesters, loner vigilantes, at war with us? What are they doing? Even in the military, there are rules and a chain of command. Who is the leader of these posses? Don't we have enough to worry about and address without these people playing with gasoline during the fire of our crisis? Any ONE of them could be a terrorist who is playing them and putting everyone else in danger. There is no place for these guns in the capitol building.

Carol Wyndham
Tue, 05/12/2020 - 12:57pm

"Members of the Republican-dominated commission questioned whether they have the legal authority to pass a ban, despite Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel weighing in Friday with a formal opinion concluding that they do." How is the capitol different from all other public buildings where assault weapons are not allowed: police stations, court houses, US capitol, supreme court, white house, airports, air planes, etc.?

Faith-Based Obj...
Tue, 05/12/2020 - 1:07pm

"Shirkey urged the governor and attorney general to arrest those threatening others and brandishing weapons on a case-by-case basis rather than taking the 'cowardly' route of banning guns through the Capitol Commission."

It sounds like Mre Shirkey is being the "coward" by not wanting to offend the angry group with the guns and instead trying to imagine there might be some isolated cases of terrorism or "accidents" on the part of an otherwise good group of people. It will too late to stop the human carnage once the bump-stocks are emptied. Who is to say a whole group of "protesters" is not there as terrorists, like the shooter at the concert in Las Vegas albeit that was just one domestic terrorist? Guns are extremely dangerous per se when brought to places with large groups of people, especially when no one know what training the possessors have. Come on, people show some common sense. This is not a game.

Concerned Citizen
Tue, 05/12/2020 - 1:25pm

In what world is it ok for legislators to feel the need to wear a bullet proof vest while deciding on legislation for our state.

Kevin Grand
Tue, 05/12/2020 - 6:08pm

They need to wear one if the public isn't buying what they are selling any longer.

Got to gin up some publicity by telling everyone how "scared" you are.

If defending the same Constitution that they swore an oath to support is too difficult for them, then they really should go and look for a new job. They obviously are not cut out for the one that they are in right now.

Wed, 05/13/2020 - 10:50am

The public is buying, its just you red hatters that are being children. Every poll shows over 70% of Americans want the qurantine to continue and to have the federal government provide hep to keep businesses closed. Its pathetic that you people have to pretend you are a majority. You are not. You are an extreme extreme minority. You cant even win elections without the help of gerry mandering and massive cheating anymore. No Republican has won the popular vote in decades. Because you are not a majority. You are a loud, vocal minority without manners, morals or common sense and thus it makes it easy for you to think you are a majority. The reality is you are not just a minority, but every year your base literally dies off as the average age of a Republican is now over 60.

And hell you cant even keep the old people. Look up the numbers. Republicans over the age of 60 and especially 70 are starting to flee the party because your nonsense is threatening their lives. Grow up, try actually reading and try not letting your amygdala process what you read for you. Let your grey matter do some work and accept facts, starting with you are not "the people" you are the minority.

Paul Jordan
Wed, 05/13/2020 - 11:01am

The last poll taken showed that 72% of Michiganders support Governor Whitmer. The conclusion that I would draw from that is that Michigan's people are NOT behind you and yours, Mr. Grand, and that you are right wingnuts.

Protest is fine--I've been in many at the capitol over the years (without bolstering my sense of masculinity by brandishing a gun). When it involves violating the law--as those did who refused to keep a safe distance and wear masks as the executive order requires--then it becomes civil disorder. This bit of right wing political theater seriously could go off the rails if carried too far. If necessary, the governor has the ability to call out the Michigan National Guard to preserve civil order and she is not a cream puff.

Oh, and by the way. In case anyone doubts my patriotism or thinks me un-American, my people had already been here for 150 years at the time of the Revolution, You do not get to define those of us who advocate for common sense.

Kevin Grand
Wed, 05/13/2020 - 5:29pm

Given the number of people I've seen out and about today (the roads were jammed), "non-essential" businesses opened up and people generally not falling lockstep with the "orders" promulgated by Gov. Karen, how does that jive with the so-called "support" from your poll?

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 10:47pm

"Concerned Citizen" - The key word here is "feel". You used the word and you didn't even realize what it meant.
Feelings - Irrelevant. Actions speak far, far louder than words.
Were any hostile actions taken during the protest? No! It was beautifully peaceful!
Now take your feelings and shove them where the sun don't shine.
You snowflake.

Wed, 05/13/2020 - 11:34am

Normal people see groups marching around with guns as a threat/intimidating tactic. All you are proving is that you are so far removed from sane/civilized society you cant recognize what is a violent action or threat anymore

Wed, 05/13/2020 - 11:01am

In what state is it okay for the police to attempt to arrest a barber for cutting someone's hair? Or what state is it okay for the state to pressure a local clothing store to remain closed while Target and Meijer sell clothing unimpeded? Do you know of states out there where police harass healthy and innocent citizens from playing at a park or going for a boat ride?

I think that legislators that declares war against the citizens should be a little bit afraid. You can't take away people's lives, fortunes, honor, and property without consequences, you know.

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 1:38pm

There are some 20 million Americans with cancer or survived it, another 30 million with heart disease, 34 million with diabetes, and 35 million with chronic lung disease. All together, nearly one in five Americans are being treated for these ailments. What happens if they cannot get medications and treatments thanks to the economic lockdown? If just one in 1,000 of these people dies because they cannot get their medications, or because hospitals cannot take them in, that is another 75,000 deaths.

each 1 percent rise in unemployment leads to one additional suicide for each 100,000 people. If unemployment increases by 5 percent in the current economic shutdown, that could mean some 16,500 additional suicides. A 10 percent spike in unemployment could mean some 30,000 additional suicides. A 20 percent spike in unemployment (which is what we're seeing) will lead to an additional 60,000 deaths by suicide.

Delays in vaccinations, people avoiding preventive medicine, drug and alcohol abuse- these deaths will also be great.

The Governor's shut down policies will kill far more people than will be 'saved'. But let's talk about something else on here.

Wed, 05/13/2020 - 10:52am

How about sourcing your numbers. Note, your butt doesnt count as a source. Nor do alt right websites which are the same as your butt.

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 4:31pm

Republicans will never ban guns in the capital building because these gun toting terrorists are their main supporters. The Republican Party is the biggest threat to our democracy and the health and safety of all our residents.

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 6:20pm

People who think like you are the biggest threat to the Republic. While the scores of people who died for your freedom did also die for your right to think in this defective way, they did not die for the freedom of dictators and tyrants to cancel the constitution with a false crisis.
You need to understand that the people whom you disagree with are willing to die to save the Republic. Are you willing to fight in a war and die in order to bring about a democratic dictatorship?

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 7:32pm

I'm a veteran who has served proudly, not a fan of cadet bone spurs which you obviously are. Maybe you should serve your country instead of promoting overthrowing your local government you little twit!

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 10:48pm

Bizarre reply, "Anonymous" - If you had actually served, you would have sworn to uphold the consitution and swore yourself as an enemy of anyone who threatened it.

middle of the mit
Tue, 05/12/2020 - 10:37pm

If it isn't clear that these "hunting rifles" aren't meant for anything other than projection and intimidation, read some of the comments above.

You would think that the only way to redress grievance from Government is by the barrel of a gun.

Quick! Some one tell the environmentalists all they need are guns to get new laws!/s

I will believe they have a second amendment right to do this if they can do it in a court room, police or Sheriffs office. And then I get to bring a sign into the capital with MY FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS SPELLED OUT. If you can ban the FIRST AMENDMENT for the safety of stucco, you should be able to ban the second for protection of LIFE.

So if Leaders Shirkey and Chatfield don't think it is right that one of our amendments is banned from the Capital, and they won't ban the amendment people use to hurt other people (or worse), I propose they live up to their standards and rescind the law that BANS the FIRST AMENDMENT FROM THE CAPITAL and ALLOW FREE SPEECH. You still allow monetary speech, don't ya?

And when you have others waving around loaded guns at your job, well....you might be a Soldier.

NOT a lawmaker in a "civilized society".

Signed; Strong liberal supporter of the right to bear arms in defense of home, family and country and the use in recreation and hunting. NOT for intimidation.

That's just irresponsible. And it gives responsible gun owners a bad name.

Wed, 05/13/2020 - 7:10am

Not that I think carrying a firearm around a place like this is a personally appealing activity, it isn't, but three point jump out. First the mere presence of a firearm isn't a danger. Second none of these guys? were doing anything with their firearm that constituted a threat against anyone (No you don't even know whether they were even loaded.). Third if the Democratic legislators fussing here were honest here, they'd admit they'd favor legislating the removal of all privately owned firearms not just these.

Wed, 05/13/2020 - 11:00am

Showing your hypocrisy. Every single one of you supporting these morons want to pretend they didnt threaten anyone. First off a mass gathering of people with guns protesting is a threat in and of itself. Read the replies her. Pretty clear you are all hypocrites as you out one side of your mouth say "we are not violent" while out the other side are saying "Take our threats seriously, we gathered with guns to prove to you that we gun toting loons see ourselves as the real law". Second there were direct threats made to law makers by these man children. Thus why there are now black men armed and marching black law makers into the building.

None of you ever educate yourselves before commenting....

middle of the mit
Wed, 05/13/2020 - 5:46pm

Point 1) No. Presence of a firearm is not a danger. Presence of a firearm in the possession of people who yell at cops and then shove their way into the capital building is. Especially when you see the signs and comments that come from them.

Point 2) You don't really think these protests should be normalized, do you? Not to say that protests should be discouraged at all. Because they shouldn't. But if these people want to protest with their weapons, there are responsible ways to do it. One, leave the clips at home. Two, don't bum rush the Capital building with weapons. And yes, if I saw them walking down the road I would feel threatened. It's not like they are unarmed black people, right? And yes, I have been reprimanded for carrying my weapon like they were in the field.

And how do you know those guns weren't loaded? If they weren't, what was the point of the clips? Intimidation? And how would you do this :


[[[[Militia members walked the grounds with long guns and walkie talkies, acting as what organizers touted as a “security detail.” Some protesters openly carried guns into the Capitol, where Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, said colleagues who own bulletproof vests had chosen to wear them. ]]]

Playing security with an unloaded weapon? While most everyone around also has an unloaded weapon? I smell something.

Point 3) I would like to see your proof for that statement. While I don't doubt that there are some that would, I think the majority agree with me. See, if you take one of those AR-15's in the woods to hunt with that 30 round clip? You are hunting illegally. You are only allowed 5 rounds in your clip or magazine for any hunting in this State and it has been that way for as long as I can remember.

My statement at the beginning of my original post stands.

The truth is Matt is that conservatives don't mind banning written speech because some written words are verboten, dirty, ugly, bad, filthy and dare I say offensive and intimidating.

Brings back a poem I remember from waaay back when : guns and bullets will kill me but words will never hurt me. Maybe I got some things wrong in my memory hole.........but you get the point, right?

I promise if the Republican leaders live up to THEIR STANDARD and allow THE FIRST AMENDMENT back into the Capital, I won't use any of those 7 dirty words of George Carlin.

Will they still be intimidated by words and consider them dangerous?

Wed, 05/13/2020 - 10:57am

It is pathetic how every solution with these people comes to a gun eventually. As you said imagine if other groups acted this way. Imagine if Bernie Sanders supporters and socielaists who make up not many less people then conservatives these days started appearing at capitals across the nation with guns and saying "$15 min wage or we riot" like these people. Imagine if an AOC supporter followed around Ted Cruz with automatics screaming "climate action or AK47 action" or some crap like that.

The whole thing is just comically stupid too. The police have the same weapons as the military these days. We live in the age of drone technology and super weapons. Its comical to think these conservatives think their rascal revolution (most of them are old as dirt as well) would be enough to take on armored vehicles and drones. With each mention of their gun and whiny rant about tyranny they prove their own ignorance. We hold no power with guns or revolution these days. But we hold more power then ever through utilizing social media and voting. Yet they cling to their guns in an egotistical and childish hope that it somehow will return them to the good ole days that only ever existed in their heads.