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Mich. Supreme Court hears arguments on school gun policies

men carrying guns in a belt holster
flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM
The Lansing library system says Michigan's open-carry of weapons law does not apply to its facilities.

The debate over firearms and school safety found its way Wednesday to the Michigan Supreme Court.

The court must decide whether schools can ban firearms, or if that’s preempted by state law. The court heard more than an hour of arguments from both sides.

At issue is a state law says cities, townships, villages and counties cannot adopt their own firearms ordinances. But the law is silent on school districts.

School officials say that means they can adopt policies that don’t permit firearms in schools. Gun rights groups say schools are skirting the intent of the law.

“A public school cannot be allowed to subvert and usurp the intent of the law and that is exactly what’s happening in this case,” said James Makowski, an attorney representing Michigan Gun Owners, which is suing Ann Arbor schools over a gun ban adopted in 2015. A separate lawsuit targets a similar policy adopted by the Clio Area Schools.

Gun rights advocates say school policies can’t trump the state’s concealed pistol law. The law bans concealed firearms in schools. But it says people with a concealed pistol license can openly carry a firearm.

Justice Bridget McCormack, a Democrat, asked whether school policies are the same as local ordinances.

“So we have the right to ask you to leave,” she said. “We’re not saying you’re committing a crime, so where’s the conflict?”

A bill before the Legislature aims to clear up the confusion over the concealed pistol permit loophole. 

Chief Justice Stephen Markman, a Republican, was interested in what the Legislature might do whole the court considers the case.

“This is a very time-consuming, recourse-heavy case,” he said. “And if the Legislature is going to do something contrary to what this court might decide, we might want to know that’s a likely prospect.”

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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