Not even a Zoom meeting about guns in Michigan’s Capitol Building was safe from increasingly aggressive protesters.
LANSING, MI — The meeting of the State Capitol Commission to discuss the banning of guns in the Capitol Building kicked the can down the road Monday before adjourning early due to threats and disruptions by protesters’ racist and threatening commentary on the Zoom meeting.
As The ‘Gander reported, the presence of armed protesters who stormed the Capitol Building and prompted a legislator to wear a bulletproof vest at the end of April prompted the Commission to look at whether or not open carry should continue to be permitted in the building in the first place.
In their meeting Monday, the Commission created a committee to seek legal consultation from the Republican-controlled legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on whether or not it could ban guns in the Capitol Building, arguably information the Commission already had.
In a formal opinion, Attorney General Dana Nessel issued an opinion saying the Commission was well within its rights to prohibit guns inside the building.
“I firmly believe in the right to protest, the right to demonstrate, and the right to loudly and strongly object to those causes that move us,” Nessel said in a statement. “But it is also important to remember that the right to protest does not encompass the right to violence, or the right to harm those individuals with whom you disagree.”
That opinion conflicted with the Commission’s own lawyer, Amy Shaw. Shaw, who also works for a Republican senator, argued the Commission only had authority over the upkeep of the building.
It seems unlikely that Nessel and Shaw’s opinions won’t be indicative of what the Commission’s committee finds.
Shaw’s interpretation of the Commission’s role is shared by some of their six members, including John Truscott, vice chair of the State Capitol Commission. Truscott, a self-described second amendment advocate and one of the Commission’s Republican members, called on the Legislature to make the prohibition of guns in the building a matter of law.
“We’re unelected museum caretakers and gardeners for the building,” said Truscott. “We are probably the least political bodies around the Capitol, and yet we’ve been thrust into a very difficult political issue that has statewide importance and significance.”
While he has stated a firm opposition to Truscott’s request, Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) has expressed disapproval of the increasingly violent rhetoric gripping Lansing.
“I disagree with many of the governor’s decisions,” he tweeted. “I’ve been very open about that. I also support the right to protest. But as I’ve said before, those making physical threats (to both parties) are out of line and should be punished. It’s despicable. It’s wrong. It needs to stop.”
Then again, Shaw and Truscott’s argument that the Commission exists to act as caretakers opened a fairly unique rationale for other members of the Commission to push for banning guns — property damage.
Commission member Kerry Charktoff, who is the Capitol Historian Emeritus, cited the banning of protest signs the Capitol already enforces to protect the physical property of the building against damage reported Vice. Many concerned voices following the April 30 American Patriot Protest did note that such signs being banned in the building already limits the First Amendment for the public interest, The ‘Gander reported. Charktoff wanted to apply that standard to guns.
“There’s no place for them,” he said. “They whack the wall.”
Though even he was reticent to make a decision Monday.
“We need to do something, but we can’t do it in haste,” Charktoff said. “This has suddenly popped out of nowhere for us, and we need to take a little time to review it.”
The meeting ended early when the Zoom call that acted as the meeting’s platform was inundated with threats and violent rhetoric.
“We have some people who have infiltrated the meeting,” Commissioner Margeret O’Brien said as a motion to end the meeting was made, “who are threatening legislators and individual committee members.”
That disruption comes days before yet another Lansing protest, this one ominously called “Judgment Day” and hosted by Michigan United for Liberty.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.