Michigan commission votes to close loophole in Capitol open carry ban

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The Michigan Capitol Commission on Monday voted unanimously to close what its members consider a loophole in the Capitol's months-old open carry ban to ensure that people with concealed pistol licenses can only be carried concealed. 

The initial wording of the policy approved in January was meant to retain allowances for those with the licenses to carry concealed, but opaque wording left a loophole for them also to carry openly. The commission learned of the loophole in April after a man entered the Capitol with a holstered handgun visible on his right hip and explained the exemption to Michigan State Police.

A Michigan State Patrol trooper enters the capitol as he passes a sign that states, 'Open Carry Of Firearms Is Prohibited In The Capitol.'

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The commission on Monday added the word "concealed" to the allowance for CPL holders to ensure their possession was limited to concealed carry only. 

The change "makes it clear no one, CPL license or not, is allowed to open carry a gun, a weapon, a firearm I should say in the Capitol,” said Commissioner William Kandler. 

Michigan Open Carry last month cited the loophole as one of the reasons it hadn't yet sued the Capitol commission over the open carry ban.

The group's attorney on Monday said the meeting was not held in compliance with the Michigan Open Meeting Act and called on Attorney General Dana Nessel to "enforce the law."

"If the commission has enacted a new policy on open carry at today’s meeting, then it did so without advance public notice and without public comment," said Dean Greenblatt, a lawyer for Michigan Open Carry. "If that happened, then each of the participating commissioners have exposed themselves to criminal and civil liability and any new rule is voidable by the courts."

Commissioner John Truscott pointed to the commission's agenda in defense of Monday's meeting. 

The change to the policy was not specifically listed in a meeting agenda posted to the Michigan State Capitol Commission website Friday, but the agenda included  language allowing for the discussion of "any business properly before the commission." The policy change was brought up at the beginning of the meeting under "old business."

The debate over whether guns should be allowed in the Michigan Capitol has been one that has consumed the state for years. But it rose to a new level of controversy on April 30, 2020, when dozens of people — some of them carrying weapons — entered the building to protest against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home restrictions that were meant to stem the COVID-19 spread.

Demonstrators gathered outside the state House chamber and chanted, "Let us in," as lawmakers convened inside. In the Senate, armed men wore camouflage clothing and carried guns in the gallery as lawmakers worked below.

Staff writer Craig Mauger contributed.