A New, But Partial, Gun Ban In MI Legislature Means ‘Capitol Is Not Safe,’ AG Says

William Null (R) stands in the gallery of the Michigan Senate Chamber during the American Patriot Rally, organized by Michigan United for Liberty, to demand the reopening of businesses on the steps of the Michigan St... William Null (R) stands in the gallery of the Michigan Senate Chamber during the American Patriot Rally, organized by Michigan United for Liberty, to demand the reopening of businesses on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan, on April 30, 2020. Others are unidentified. - Thirteen men, including members of two right-wing militias, have been arrested for plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and "instigate a civil war", Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced on October 8, 2020. The Nulls were charged for their alleged roles in the plot to kidnap Whitmer, according to the FBI. The brothers are charged with providing support for terroristic acts and felony weapons charges. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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January 12, 2021 11:52 a.m.

The decision of an oversight body to ban openly carried firearms in the Michigan State Capitol — but not all guns — has left the building vulnerable, Michigan’s attorney general said Tuesday. 

“My job is not to provide state employees & residents or other visitors to our Capitol with a false sense of security, especially given the current state of affairs in Michigan and around the nation,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel wrote

“I repeat-the Michigan Capitol is not safe.” 

The open carry ban in question, approved by the state’s Capitol Commission Monday, followed previous failures by the commission to restrict weaponry in the legislature.

The tide shifted after Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R) came out in favor of an open carry ban, a day after hundreds of Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol. 

The issue garnered national attention last year after gunmen menaced lawmakers with an open display of long guns from the Senate gallery while protesting COVID-19 restrictions. Some of those photographed at the legislature were later charged for their alleged participation in a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) (including William Null, pictured above, right). 

Sen. Sylvia Santana (D), who was famously pictured wearing a bulletproof vest in April after armed protesters stormed the state’s Capitol Building, told TPM Monday that she’s kept the vest at her Senate desk — and that after last week, she’ll be wearing it “moving forward, every day.” 

The open carry ban “is a step in the right direction, but it still doesn’t make me feel comfortable going to work every day,” Santana told TPM. “It doesn’t make me feel better for myself, nor for the constituency that comes through that door every day.”

As the pro-Trump mob swamped the U.S. Capitol building last week, Michigan’s government was dealing with its own security issues: One man, Michael Varrone, was arrested on Thursday and faces multiple felony charges for allegedly calling in a false bomb threat and threatening the life of a Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Cynthia A. Johnson. 

State police are also taking precautions for planned protests at the Michigan State Capitol — and other capitals around the country — on Sundayin which Trump supporters and violent extremists are expected to show up in force.

A spokesperson for the Michigan State Police told TPM Monday that police were aware of online calls for protest on Jan. 17, and that “we will be increasing our visible presence at the Capitol for the next couple of weeks starting today.” 

Santana noted the “sad state affairs” when legislators and members of the public visiting the Capitol feel threatened. 

“We are not in a situation where we are safe within our workplace,” she said.

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