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Michigan Court of Appeals to consider legal challenge to Lansing library weapons ban

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio
Gun rights activists want to be able to openly carry firearms in Lansing area libraries. The Capital Area District Library says no.

This week, the Michigan Court of Appeals will hear arguments in a case over whether a library can ban weapons.

The Capital Area District Library has a very simple policy:  “All weapons are banned from Library premises by the fullest extent permitted by law”

A group called Michigan Open Carry has tried challenging the Lansing library policy. First, by openly carrying firearms in the district’s main library branch. Then by going to court.

Dean Greenblatt is the attorney for Michigan Open Carry. He says the library authority does not have the legal right under state law to ban weapons. Greenblatt cites the Michigan Firearm and Ammunition Act of 1990,which says local units of government shall not pass laws and regulations on weapons. He says the law is intended to create a consistent statewide standard.

“The preemption statute is there so there is one uniform law across the state of Michigan,” insists Greenblatt.

Greenblatt questions why libraries should be exempt. “Are libraries immune from crime? Is a library a place that isn’t a Constitutionally protected zone?" he asked.

Attorney Gary Bender represents the Capital Area District Library. He says authorities that govern library systems, sporting arenas, water systems and other similar organizations are not included in the Michigan Firearms Act of 1991.   

Bender says allowing people to openly carry weapons in the libraries will discourage people from using libraries and add to the library’s security costs.

“We do not want to spend money on attorney’s fees…legal costs…added security and so forth…as a heightened precaution to protect the safety and welfare of our patrons and staff,” says Bender . 

Last year,a circuit court judge ruled the state law blocking local governments from instituting gun bans, doesn’t apply to local authorities like the Capital Area District Library. That ruling is the subject of the Court of Appeals hearing this week. 

While the Capital Area District Library’s policy bans “All weapons,” Bender says the policy does not ban individuals with a permit from carrying a concealed weapon. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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