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Senate bills would ban guns in Michigan State Capitol building

Courtesy Senator Dayna Polehanki

Two Democratic state senators have introduced a pair of bills this week (SB 1158 and  SB 1159) that would prohibit open and concealed carry of firearms inside Michigan's Capitol building.

The ban would not apply to state law enforcement or Capitol security, and firearms would still be allowed outside on Capitol grounds.

State Sens. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills) and Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) said the legislation is necessary to make sure the Capitol building remains a safe and respectful working environment for legislators, staff and visitors.

Polehanki said the bills are in response to a protest in late April that gained national attention. Protesters   opposed to Governor Gretchen Whitmer's COVID-19 stay-at-home orders entered the state house, some with guns.

"There were armed men, taunting us, yelling at us from the gallery of the Senate," said Polehanki. "And it was alarming. It was scary. And it's not something I ever want to get used to."

"We respect our Second Amendment rights here in Michigan," Polehanki said. "But when those rights are used to intimidate us and stifle our First Amendment rights to vote and to speak freely on behalf of our constituents in our work place, it's gone too far."

Polehanki said while firearms have long been allowed in Michigan's state house, they are not allowed in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., or in many state Capitol building around the country.          

The Michigan State Capitol Commission has been deadlocked on a potential gun ban, citing cost concerns, despite having legal authority to adopt one.

Polehanki said she is introducing the legislation because the Commission continues to "drag their feet" after months of meetings and studies.

In mid-September, after voting down a motion to immediately ban firearms inside the Capitol building, the Commission decided to set up a meeting with the House and Senate leadership to listen to their input.

"I'm really disappointed that my bills were relegated to the Senate Committee on Government Operations," said Polehanki. "This is notoriously where bills are sent to die. So I don't believe that any action will be taken before this legislative year in terms of our bill."

State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson) and State Capitol Commission chair Gary Randall did not reply to requests for comment.

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.
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