by Scott McClallen
Two motions aiming to restrict guns inside the state Capitol failed at the Michigan Capitol Commission meeting Monday.
But the group agreed to meet with leading lawmakers to further discuss the idea.
The Commission voted to schedule a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey of Clarklake and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield of Levering, both Republicans, either this or next week.
Last Thursday, those lawmakers requested a meeting to coordinate a response, saying “any rule we adopt has implications for the entire building.”
Commission Chairman Gary Randall presented three options: enact no ban, ban long guns, or ban all guns.
The discussion began after protesters opposing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers on April 30 entered the Capitol building while open carrying. They watched legislative proceedings from the Senate gallery.
Commission members have outlined costs and other actions needed under each of the three circumstances.
Commission member William C. Kandler said banning the open carry of long guns would be easier to enforce than completely banning all firearms.
If they banned guns completely, officials would have to limit entry access points that would cause backups of as long as 1.5 hours for high-traffic events.
Although they don’t have an exact estimate, Kandler said it would cost at least $500,000 just for a single entrance.
The Legislature would have to appropriate that money, and the state is facing a $1 billion budget shortfall.
Commission member Joan Bauer motioned to ban all firearms from the Capitol building, which failed 4-2.
Bauer said she was “very disappointed” the Commission had been researching possible avenues for two months without action.
“The Michigan Capitol Commission has the authority and the moral responsibility to the safety of the public as well as those who carry out the people’s work by prohibiting firearms within the capitol building,” Bauer said.
Kandler said he supported banning all weapons in the Capitol but pointed out the rules would be “meaningless” without funding for enforcement.
“I’m really uncomfortable with passing a policy that we can’t enforce,” Kandler said. “If we pass this today, tomorrow nothing changes. There’s no magnetometers at the doors, x-ray machines, no security people, and so people can just flout it.”
Kandler then moved to ban the open carry of firearms except for police and those with concealed carry licenses, but that failed in a 3-3 deadlock.
Commissioner John Truscott said it would be common to take an hour to an hour-and-a-half to check-in visitors and employees during a busy day.
“This is not a simple issue where it’s just one way or another. It’s very, very complex,” Truscott said. “There are a lot of moving parts.”
Democratic Reps. Sara Anthony of Lansing and Brenda Carter of Pontiac gave public comment supporting a firearms ban, arguing lawmakers’ lives were put at risk and that gun violence would eventually occur in the Capitol.
The Commission will try to find “common ground” with Shirkey and Chatfield, Randall said.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square.