Guns or signs? Bills would flip which are allowed in state capitol


As it stands today you can openly carry a firearm, but not a sign, into the state capitol. But two Democratic Representatives are seeking to flip which of those two items are permissible.

"If two people show up at the Capitol, one armed with a rifle and one holding a sign, only one of them will be turned away — the person with the sign," said Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, one of the sponsors.

"Signs aren't designed to harm or kill, but apparently some politicians are afraid of them. Meanwhile, people who expect to be safe inside state buildings are often startled to see other visitors carrying rifles on their backs, or carrying handguns in holsters."

Firearms are prohibited in federally-owned buildings, but states set their own rules in state-owned buildings. Michigan currently allows open carry guns, and advocates assemble to open carry at the capitol at least once a year. Bills from Rep. Robert Wittenberg, D-Oak Park, would ban guns from state buildings as well.

"There's a reason deadly weapons are kept out of sensitive places such as courtrooms and airports," Rep. Wittenberg said. "Our proposals would simply bring Michigan laws in line with federal rules and help ensure the safety of visitors to state buildings while protecting everyone's right to free speech. I urge my colleagues to give their support to these common-sense proposals."

Visitors to the state capitol are asked to leave their signs outside. A notice at its entrance warns people of the policy, which is in place to prevent accidental damage to the historic building.

Josh Howley, 40, of Three Rivers, was on the capitol lawn with Michigan Gun Owners for an event Wednesday. He usually carries a concealed weapon, but was open carrying for the occasion and supports the right of people to carry however they choose. He's gone inside the capitol with his openly-carried gun, he said, and thinks it should continue to be allowed.

"Why when I walk in the door right there am I all of a sudden a bad person?" He asked.

But he disagreed with the ban on signs as well, saying guns and signs weren't related.

"I believe signs should be allowed too. It's not an either-or, that's a stupid thing," Howley said.

But the three-bill package, slated for introduction later Thursday, would relate the two issues.