Lansing — Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a formal legal opinion Monday morning, stating that the Michigan Capitol Commission has the authority to unilaterally ban guns within the Capitol building.
Nessel’s formal opinioncame three days after the Democratic attorney general sent a letter to the commission advising members that they had the power to ban guns within the Capitol.
The formal opinion aims to give additional legal weight to her stance.
“As the commission has previously recognized in approving procedures for the use of the public areas of the Capitol, this grant of authority includes not only the obligation to care for and protect the Capitol grounds and facilities, but also the obligation to care for and protect the safety of those working in and visiting the Capitol grounds and facilities,” Nessel wrote.
She compared the commission’s ability to bar guns to that of the Michigan Supreme Court, saying the commission, like the state’s high court, “is not prohibited from placing restrictions on carrying firearms at facilities under its control.”
The commission is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. Monday. On the six-member panel’s agenda is a discussion on firearms in the Capitol.
The meeting comes less than two weeks after dozens of protesters gathered inside the building to demonstrate against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home restrictions to combat COVID-19. Some of the protesters openly carried firearms in the building, drawing national attention.
On Friday, John Truscott, a Capitol Commission member, said the group had received informal legal advice from other lawyers who found it couldn’t change the gun policy without legislative action.
Supporters of continuing to allow guns in the Capitol have argued that those carrying weapons in the building are exercising constitutional rights.
House Minority Leader Chris Greig, D-Farmington Hills, requested the new opinion from Nessel.
“With there now being no doubt whatsoever regarding their legal authority, the Michigan State Capitol Commission must act immediately to prohibit firearms within the Capitol, to ensure the safety and security of everyone who enters our statehouse and to protect the integrity of the People’s business that occurs there each day,” Greig said in statement Monday.
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