Postindustrial Logo

Boogaloo Boys pose for a photo inside the indoor entrance to the Capitol Building during a rally on October 17, 2020, in Lansing, Michigan. The Boogaloo boys called it a Unity Rally in an attempt to distance themselves from the Wolverine Watchmen who plotted to kidnap Michigans Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Two of the men arrested in the plot were affiliated with the Boogaloo Boys. // Seth Herald / Getty Images via Michigan Advance

Panel plans to ban guns, require bag checks in the Michigan Capitol by September


By Anna Liz Nichols, Michigan Advance

Firearms will be banned from the Michigan Capitol after Labor Day, according to drafted policy the Michigan Advance obtained from the Michigan Capitol Commission.

The commission, which makes policies regarding the maintenance and preservation of the state Capitol Building and its grounds, discussed a myriad of security changes coming to the Capitol over the next few weeks.

A ban on all weapons, defined in the drafted policy as “firearms, explosives or other items that pose a threat to security that are not reasonably necessary” is expected to go to a vote in the commission at the end of August and begin the day after Labor Day, or Sept. 5. There would be exceptions to the ban for members of Capitol security.

Between 250,000 and 300,000 students come to visit the Capitol Building each year, not including walk-in visitors, Capitol Commission Executive Director Rob Blackshaw said. He said the September start date was conceived with kids in mind.

“That’s when the Legislature returns from their summer break, as well as that’s when most of the children of the school period start coming back. Those would be our largest crowds and again, this is to improve the security of the building and reducing the risk of potential catastrophes moving forward.”

It’s been a hard two years for Michigan in regards to gun violence.

Four students at Oxford High School were murdered during a shooting at the school by another student in 2021, and seven other people were injured.

Three students were killed during a mass shooting at Michigan State University in February, leaving five others injured.

Since these two tragedies, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed into law requirements for safe storage of firearms and ammunition, as well as universal background checks for all firearms sales. Additionally, she signed into law the ability for judges to issue extreme risk protection orders to confiscate firearms from defendants who pose a threat to themselves or others.

Though a weapons ban in the Capitol Building is not a new idea, consideration and public interest spiked in 2020 when a group of armed protesters gathered outside the House and entered the Senate gallery, accosting lawmakers and Capitol security during a right-wing protest of Whitmer’s early COVID-19 health orders.

The move to ban firearms from the Capitol Building is not a political move, although some gun rights groups may disagree, Commission Chair William Kandler told reporters after the meeting Monday.

“Our responsibilities up until this issue … the preservation of the building, the restorations of the building, all of a sudden, because of the [Attorney General Dana Nessel’s] opinion, we found out that we actually have the responsibility … to deal with weapons in the Capitol building. We didn’t ask for that,” Kandler said. “We have found that means we have the responsibility … We have to take care of it, [and] provide security and safety for people working here and visitors.”

The ban would not include the grounds outside the Capitol Building, meaning armed events like the annual Second Amendment March could still be held on the lawn. This year, gun rights groups chose to hold an event in Ionia this month instead of convening on the Capitol lawn as they had for a decade.

Open carry rally at the Michigan Capitol, Sept. 10, 2019. Under the draft policy, guns would not be banned from the lawn. // Claire Moore / Michigan Advance

The commission said the weapons policy is drafted the way it is, mentioning a ban on items that carry a threat, to allow, for example, the various workers in the Capitol performing renovations to carry tools like hammers, but bar those who don’t need to be carrying hammers or other items from doing so.

Next week, pass-through weapons detection technology will be installed in the entrances to the Capitol Building, Blackwell said. Before the Legislature comes back from summer recess, security will have the chance to test out the technology which would be able to detect weapons without having to put visitors through X-ray machines individually.

Bag checks would also be added to security policy at the Capitol, Blackwell said. Larger bags, including backpacks and laptop bags, would be subject to secondary search by Capitol security under the drafted policy. Blackwell told reporters it would be a similar policy to what was instituted at Oxford High School, though its current policy is mandatory usage of clear backpacks for high school and middle school students.

The details surrounding the Capitol’s new security policies will be hammered out before voting on policies and from what officials learn from the early days of the policies, Blackwell said. Other security devices, including possible X-ray machines are also on the table for the Capitol commission.

Anna Liz Nichols covers government and statewide issues, including criminal justice, environmental issues, education and domestic and sexual violence. Anna is a former state government reporter for The Associated Press and most recently was a reporter for the Detroit News. Anna is a graduate of Michigan State University.

The Michigan Advance is a hard-hitting, nonprofit news site covering politics and policy across the state. We feature in-depth stories, briefs and social media updates, as well as top-notch progressive commentary.

Related Stories

New around here? Get our newsletter!

Welcome to Postindustrial, a multimedia outlet covering the Rust Belt, Appalachia, and Postindustrial Communities around the world.


This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.