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Gov Whitmer accused of using covid relief to fund gun ban at State Capitol

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is reportedly trying to use a COVID recovery bill to fund an effort to ban firearms at the State Capitol.

The Democrat governor unveiled a massive $5.6 billion COVID-19 recovery plan earlier this week and is apparently looking to address security issues at the Michigan State Capitol by using $5 million toward “enforcing a weapons ban” there, according to Michigan Advance.

Whitmer, who has called for a full firearms ban at the state Capitol, is reportedly looking to fund the placement of metal detectors and to enhance security measures at the government building after a commission vote last week to ban the open carry of firearms in the building.

The Michigan State Capitol Commission voted unanimously on January 11 to enact open carry ban at the Capitol, prompting objections from new House Speaker Jason Wentworth who felt that the six member, bipartisan panel did not have the authority to set policy for the property.

“The Speaker is grateful for the work of the Capitol Commission, but it does not have the authority to set policy in the Capitol. The Speaker will be looking at options for handling that moving forward,” Wentworth said. “In the meantime, the Michigan State Police will be enforcing the new ruling. In order to ensure there is no confusion in the Capitol, Speaker Wentworth asks everyone to respect the Michigan State Police and the rules they enforce.”

Members of the panel reportedly felt last week that banning open carry is not enough.

“Though I appreciate the Commission’s decision today to prohibit the open carry of firearms, it’s only a single step down the long path of reforms that are necessary to make our legislators, state employees and visitors safe in our state Capitol,” Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement following the vote.

“Firearms – whether explicitly visible or concealed by clothing – possess the same capability to inflict injury and harm on others and only banning open carry does little to meaningfully improve the safety and security of our Capitol,” Nessel added. “I urge the Commission or our Legislature to take the proper action and pass the necessary reforms that truly take into account the safety of those visiting and working in our Capitol. Today’s actions are simply not enough to do that.”

Whitmer also called for more.

“The Capitol Commission’s action to ban open carry guns at the Capitol is a good start, but more action is needed. On a normal day, hundreds of people walk through the Capitol, including groups of fourth graders, teachers and parents on school field trips to learn about state government,” she said.

“That’s why we must take action to ban all weapons at the Capitol to keep Michiganders safe. I am hopeful that the Capitol Commission will recognize the need for further action, and I stand ready to assist in implementing this policy to keep Michiganders safe,” Whitmer added.

MSCC members believe additional funds will be needed to enact a full ban, even as those with a valid concealed pistol license are also banned from openly carrying in the Michigan Capitol.

The governor’s move to allocate COVID-19 funds to make that move was praised by Democrats.

“By requesting this funding, Governor Whitmer has demonstrated that she has made the safety of legislators, staff and Capitol visitors a priority and has likewise eliminated any excuses for the commission’s failure to get the job done by moving from a ban on open carry to a ban on all weapons,” Sen. Dayna Polehanki said.

Journalist Cam Edwards accused Whitmer of playing games with coronavirus relief funds.

“Actually, by requesting this funding in the manner that she did, Governor Whitmer has demonstrated that she’s willing to play games with COVID relief for Michigan residents in order to disarm visitors and employees to the state capitol complex,” he wrote in Bearing Arms.

“This provision should be stripped out of Whitmer’s proposal before it ever receives a vote. The policy of the MSCC as it stands right now is a decent one; open carrying is allowed on the grounds of the Capitol, while concealed carry is allowed inside the building,” Edwards added. “To turn the Capitol into a gun-free zone not only sends the message that lawmakers don’t trust the people they represent, it puts legislators and staffers at risk.”

Frieda Powers

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