Editorial: Keep guns out of state Capitol

The Detroit News

Nothing ruins a good protest like a gun. The anti-shutdown protesters who have been showing up in Lansing armed to the teeth are hurting their own presumptive cause.

It's hard to take anything else they stand for seriously when they appear this way at the Capitol.

Their guns, not their message, draw all of the attention. And they overshadow the other protesters who have legitimate gripes about the way Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is exercising her emergency powers.

So instead of serving the purpose of applying public pressure to the governor to be more reasonable with her orders, the Open Carry crowd makes it easy to ignore the entire demonstration, or to write it off as the work of a bunch of right-wing paramilitary wackos.

People with rifles watch outside the State Capitol in Lansing on  April 15 to protest  Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's orders to keep people at home and businesses locked during the COVID-19 outbreak.

We are a strong proponent of the Second Amendment. And we acknowledge that under Michigan’s interpretation of the right to bear arms, the protesters can legally carry their pistols and long guns in plain view.

But just because you have a right, doesn’t mean you should exercise it in irresponsible ways.

Showing up at a mass protest with a pistol on your hip or a rifle slung across your shoulder is irresponsible.

It could easily be read as an attempt to intimidate. That’s particularly true when the guns are brought into the Capitol building where lawmakers are doing the state’s business. 

Police monitoring the gatherings are put in the extremely difficulty position of trying to discern whether those carrying weapons are a threat to commit violence. Officers  have to guess which guns are present as a symbol of protest, and which are there for ill intent.

Things can go bad in a hurry if they guess wrong.

Common sense should rule here. The Legislature should reverse its policy and ban guns and other weapons from inside the Capitol.

And it should seriously consider a law that prohibits weapons of all sorts from large public protests.

The Second Amendment is not immune to reasonable restrictions. Those two measures would certainly fall into the category of reasonable.