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Capitol Commission shares weapons ban plan

Michigan Capitol
Corey Seeman
Michigan Capitol

A weapons ban could soon be coming to the Michigan state Capitol building. That’s under a security plan unveiled at a meeting of the Michigan State Capitol Commission Monday.

Under the proposed procedure, workers and visitors would have to go through weapons detectors to get inside. Those with backpacks or laptops would be routed through extra screening.

Commission executive director Rob Blackshaw said the technology shouldn’t slow people down too much on their way in.

“A lot of the airports are looking into this right now because right now, I think at a maximum, they can go through a 100 to 150 people through a metal detector an hour, this can go over a thousand. So, if you talk about Disney World, if you talk about Ford Field, the larger athletic venues, they’re using this evolved system all over the United States now,” Blackshaw said.

The plan would bar guns, explosives and other items deemed a threat by capitol security. Exceptions would be made for capitol security, active-duty law enforcement, authorized active-duty federal agents from agencies like the FBI, and “private security personnel carrying out official business.”

The commission plans to vote on it next month at its August 28 meeting after a public feedback period.

Commission chair Bill Kandler said the policy is important for protecting guests, like the estimated 250,000 to 300,000 school children that visit each year.

“Probably an awful lot of these children are coming from schools that have increased recently security. And it’d be kind of nice to tell their parents and teachers that children would be just as safe as they’re visiting their capitol building as they would be back in their home school building,” Kandler said.

A weapons ban would mark a significant change in building policy from 2020, when images of armed protesters in the building made national headlines.

Then-Republican legislative leadership was hesitant to ban guns from the capitol, with skeptics citing concerns about free access to the building, logistics, and Second Amendment rights.

In May 2020, Democratic lawmakers asked the state attorney general for an opinion on whether the capitol commission could ban firearms from the capitol campus.

The opinion said yes, but the group split on an outright ban before compromising to ban long guns and open carry but continue to allow licensed concealed carry.

The proposed change in policy is partially due to a change of the politically appointed makeup in the non-partisan board.

Kandler said there’s nothing political about the move, however, referencing the AG’s opinion.

“We didn’t ask for that, we didn’t expect that, we weren’t prepared for it. But, now that we know we have the authority, that means we have the responsibility. And since we have the responsibility, we have to tackle it, take care of it, provide security and safety for people working here, visitors, there’s nothing political about it,” Kandler said.

Blackshaw said installation of the walk-through scanners is scheduled to start next week.

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