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Second Amendment advocates march to keep guns in Michigan Capitol

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Jeff and Sheila Humphrey of Burton stood in the rotunda of the Michigan  Capitol Thursday, gazing up at the inner dome more than 100 feet above them. It was their first time inside the building. They carried AR-15 firearms.

"The most beautiful building I've ever seen," Jeff Humphrey, 50, said.

They visited Lansing as part of the "Second Amendment March," in which participants — many of whom openly carried weapons — gathered to celebrate their right to bear arms. The event occurred as a heated debate flared on in Michigan over whether to continue allowing guns in the Capitol building.

Militia members listen to a speaker. Gun rights advocates rally for the Second Amendment March at the Capitol Building in Lansing, Michigan on September 17, 2020.

"I don't see any problem with any gun being in this building," Jeff Humphrey contended. "Everything is done by a person's intentions. So if you blame a person before they've done anything ... what's the point of having any rights?"

"It's not so much the guns that are killing people. It's the people who are killing people," Sheila Humphrey, 51, added.

Thursday's Second Amendment March drew an estimated crowd of more than 200 people, including some militia members and supporters of the right-wing Proud Boys.

Similar rallies are held every year at the Capitol. However, this one occurred as the Michigan Capitol Commission continues to consider whether to limit firearms inside the building.

On Monday, the six-member commission rejected one proposal to generally ban guns and another to limit only the open carry of weapons. However, the panel, which is usually in charge of maintaining the Capitol grounds, plans to continue considering the matter, including meeting with the leaders of the Michigan House and Senate.

Commission member Joan Bauer, a former Democratic lawmaker from Lansing, has contended the commission has a "moral and legal responsibility to act before something terrible happens."

The discussion was spurred by an April 30 rally at the Capitol against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home orders. During the protest, dozens of people — some of whom carried firearms — ventured inside the Capitol building demanding entry into the House chamber. Michigan State Police troopers stood in a line blocking the protesters, who chanted, "Let us in."

Some protesters with firearms also went to the Senate gallery, which was open to the public and where demonstrators occasionally shouted down at lawmakers as they were in session. 

Founder of the 2nd Amendment March, Skip Coryell, addresses the crowd. Gun rights advocates rally for the Second Amendment March at the Capitol Building in Lansing, Michigan on September 17, 2020.

"It’s been four months since armed gunmen stood above elected officials while they worked," the Michigan Senate Democrats' official Twitter account posted this week. "Legislators, staff, children & teachers shouldn't have to fear guns in the Capitol."

But participants in the Second Amendment March disagreed Thursday. Phil Robinson of Michigan Liberty Militia said a ban would infringe on people's constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

"This is my house," Robinson said gesturing toward the Capitol building. "I make the rules here, not them ... We have every right to be in that building with our guns."

Jack Griffes of Lenawee County held a sign at the event that said, "Gun control kills kids." Griffes said the Michigan Constitution is clear that citizens have a right to keep and bear arms. Banning guns in the Capitol would go against that, he said.

"They obviously can't make laws that are against the Constitution," Griffes said. "The only way that they could do that legally is by amending the Constitution."

Douglas Fell, 33, of Mount Clemens, walked around the ground floor of the Capitol on Thursday as the rally took place outside. He carried an AR-15.

Asked why guns should be allowed in the Capitol, he gestured toward a Michigan State Police trooper who had walked by.

"He's doing it," Fell said. "Why can he and I can't?"

cmauger@detroitnews.com