Democratic lawmaker told to remove 'gun-free office' sign

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — A freshman Democratic lawmaker is protesting a directive from Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield that required her to remove a “gun-free office” sign from her door in the House Office Building.

Rep. Kara Hope, D-Holt, said she placed the sign in her doorway Sept. 10 at the start of 2nd Amendment Day, when gun rights activists rallied at the Michigan Capitol with pistols and rifles.

The sign was meant to foster an environment where constituents could feel safe speaking to their representative, Hope said. Gun-toting constituents could reach her by other means, she added.

Rep. Kara Hope, D-Holt

Hope was told she should remove the sign that day but said she would only “consider it if the speaker gives me something in writing,” she said.

That letter arrived Wednesday.

In the letter, Chatfield assured Hope that any threat to her or her office employees would be given paramount importance, but adopting an office policy that prohibited residents with firearms from entering the office was unauthorized.

“Such a discriminatory policy is not only unauthorized but potentially unlawful, and you are hereby directed to immediately refrain from its adoption or implementation,” Chatfield wrote.

Michigan's concealed carry law allows concealed weapons to be banned from nine kinds of buildings, including taverns, hospitals and sports arenas. Government buildings aren't included on the list.  

In a Wednesday statement, the speaker’s office stood by its position regarding Hope’s sign.

“Michigan residents have a constitutional right to petition their representatives,” said Gideon D’Assandro, a spokesman for Chatfield. “Legislators legally cannot place categorical restrictions on that right, including for citizens exercising other constitutional rights.”

The only discrimination that might have occurred was against inanimate objects, Hope said. But all the same, she removed the sign, noting that Chatfield was administrator of the House and she was “not in a position to make policy for the House Office Building."  

“I didn’t want to jeopardize the ability of my office to serve my constituents,” she said.

In a statement Wednesday evening, Hope pinged the speaker’s run-in with federal Transportation Security Administration officials last year when he inadvertently carried a loaded, unregistered handgun into a Michigan airport.

Chatfield apologized for the incident, paid a $250 civil infraction fine and was assessed a nearly $4,000 fine by the TSA. 

“Given his history, I know Speaker Chatfield has a very casual, even careless attitude toward guns, but I do not share that attitude,” Hope said in the statement.

Hope echoed concerns voiced by state Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, on 2nd Amendment Day, noting that activists brought pistols and rifles into the Capitol, but were prohibited from bringing signs there. The indoor sign ban is meant to deter accidental damage to the walls of the historic building.