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Capitol Commission discusses firearm ban

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A total firearm ban at the Michigan Capitol is in the works.

At a meeting Monday, the state Capitol Commission passed a resolution instructing its executive director to come up with a plan to keep guns away from the building and its grounds.

The commission could then approve and put those recommendations into action once lawmakers provide money for them.

Commission chair Bill Kandler said there are important logistics to figure out.

“Problem is you can’t snap your fingers and make it happen. All these things have to be put into place. You have to find out which technology works best, you have to get it implemented. We have to have the funds in order to buy whatever we decide to get. We have to have more funds for the state police for more personnel, and again that’s another decision depending on which kind of system we set up,” Kandler said.

Current rules prohibit open carry of firearms at the Capitol but still allow concealed carry.

Commission Vice Chair Joan Bauer was on the panel when it adopted that rule a little over two years ago, ending the policy of open carry that allowed armed protesters into the Senate gallery.

“And though that was a very important step at the time, we knew that we would be looking further so that we can protect the people, the public who visit this building, legislators, staff,” Bauer said.

While it waits to take the next steps on a gun ban, the commission is taking some interim measures suggested during Monday’s meeting.

That includes limiting after-hours card swipe access to the Capitol to just the building’s main entrance. It’s also directing staff to not schedule events outside of normal business hours.

During a presentation on possible security measures, the commission heard about what other states are trying.

Commission Executive Director Robert Blackshaw listed off how states like Indiana, Illinois, and Texas use various technologies to keep their respective capitol buildings safe. Possible options for Michigan to consider include x-ray machines, magnetometers, and "pass-through" weapons detection systems that can spot several types of weapons on someone’s person.

After the meeting, he compared what could be coming to Michigan’s Capitol to security measures at a courthouse or sports event.

“Over the next couple months, we’ll have more of a definite plan. But that is something for people to know in advance that we are upping our security to help reduce the risk so there will be a small inconvenience. Hopefully, it’s not that big of an inconvenience,” Blackshaw said.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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