Some legislators have said it’s difficult to work under the watch of armed protesters.
A Michigan state legislator is calling for a ban on firearms inside Lansing’s capitol building.
According to WWJ Newsradio, the resolution was introduced by Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) on Monday. Polehanki’s proposal follows an inconclusive meeting by the Michigan Capitol Commission, which had considered a ban on firearms during its first meeting of the week.
But instead of instituting, enacting, or recommending a firearms ban, the Commission said it would form a special committee to investigate the issue’s legality and applicability.
Firearms in the Capitol—as LegalReader’s reported before—have become a hot-button issue in Michigan. As part of a coronavirus response initiative, state Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered Michigan residents to shelter in place until at least the end of May.
While her initial stay-at-home order was announced at the end of March, it has since been extended several times. In mid-April, right-wing protesters began demonstrating against Whitmer in Lansing. Rallies like “Operation Gridlock” brought dozens of rifle-toting protesters onto the Capitol grounds.
By the end of April, some emboldened demonstrators had begun taking their firearms into the Capitol.
Michigan, unlike many other states, does not have any law or regulation forbidding members of the public from open carrying firearms into its capitol building.
Polehanki, however, says there’s no reason legislators should feel threatened on their way to work.
“Intimidating legislators, staff, and visitors with guns during session is an afront to the democratic process,” Polehanki said. “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.”
WWJ notes that Polehanki also took to Twitter to call the Commission’s delays a “cowardly move.”
“My colleagues and I will now be forced by the Commission to speak and vote on behalf of our constituents with heavily armed men looming just feet above us in a balcony that surrounds the senate floor while they ‘study the issue,’” Polehanki said. “Shame on the Capitol Commision.”
Polehanki had, at the end of April, tweeted photographs showing four men with firearms standing atop the Senate’s balcony.
And outrage against Gov. Whitmer continues to rise—earlier this week, the Detroit Metro Times reported that a collection of right-wing Facebook groups contained “explicit” threats to hang, shoot, or otherwise harm her.
While the threats did lead to a bipartisan condemnation, liberal lawmakers say the legislature needs to move beyond criticism. Sen. Mallory McMorrow, a Royal Oak Democrat, said extremist threats aren’t about stay-at-home orders or socio-economic suffering.
And McMorrow, who lost a friend in the 2008 Virginia Tech shooting, has emphasized how it only takes one person to “change everything.”
“[Threats] are about spreading blood on the front lawn of this building,” McMorrow said. “I would be lying if I said that sitting in my chair with four men in rifles [sic] behind me didn’t make me think that I was going to be joining my friend very soon.”
“What the hell are we going to do about it?” McMorrow asked. “Or do we wait until something happens?”