Early in the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic Michigan’s Governor Whitmer promulgated a slew of executive orders that significantly reduced or eliminated the ability of Michigan’s citizens to work, travel, shop and engage in many leisure activities. The Governor’s orders were among the most restrictive in the Nation, earning her both praise and criticism locally and nationally.
Within Michigan, many protests followed, including a well-publicized armed protest in April 2020. No firearms arrests followed this protest, and many were surprised that Michigan law did not ban the open or concealed carrying of firearms at the State Capital.
To understand why no arrests were made, it is helpful to know that Michigan is an open-carry State, meaning that in many instances non-concealed firearms can be carried anywhere not otherwise precluded under Michigan Complied Laws §750.234d. The laws pertaining to concealed carry are someone different, but the capital building is also not a prohibited place for concealed carry under Michigan Complied Laws § 28.425o.
Changes to either law however would require legislative action, and it seems unlikely that the republicans would be willing to take up such action considering the antipathy that currently exists between them and the Governor. The source of the antipathy is the belief that the Governor has abused her emergency powers and has ignored her duty to seek their concurrence if not minimally to at least consult with them relative to a Covid-19 action plan.
In response to this dilemma, House Democratic leader Christine Grieg asked state Attorney General Dana Nessel whether the Michigan State Capital Commission could issue a firearms ban, thereby avoiding the need for legislative approval. In A.G. Opinion 7311 AG Nessel answered this question in the affirmative.
In her opinion the A.G. argues that while Michigan Complied Laws § 123.1102 would preclude a local unit of government from regulating firearms, the same is not true for Michigan State Capital Commission because they are not a local unit of government. According to the A.G.’s opinion, this is why the Michigan Supreme Court can, and has, banned all firearms from all courts, with few exceptions. The A.G. concludes that the Michigan State Capital Commission stands in the same position as the Michigan Supreme Court in this regard, and therefore, the Commission does have the authority to similarly prohibit firearms in the areas under its control.
On January 11, 2021, The Michigan State Capitol Commission, by a 6-0 vote, adopted a new firearm’s policy precluding the open carry of firearms at the State Capital by anyone other than law enforcement personnel. The Commission indicated that but-for a lack of money they would have gone further in banning all firearms. However, the Commission acknowledged that it could not effectively enforce such a whole scale firearms ban without a budget increase.
Governor Whitmer has answered the Commission’s objections by proposing the allocation of $5 million dollars as part of the State’s 2021 $67 billion budget to “improve Capitol security.” Presumably, this additional funding would allow the Commission to ban all individuals, including lawful CPL holders, from carrying a firearm into the Capital. This budget allocation does require the approval of the State’s republican lead legislature.
Michigan CPL holders are encouraged to check the status of the law before taking a firearm on the State Capital grounds or into the State Capital buildings. However, until the Michigan State Capitol Commission or Michigan’s legislature acts, it is currently lawful to concealed carry on Capital grounds.