Activists for open carry of weapons in Michigan public places seem to be waging a campaign that could hurt their cause more than help. The Great Lakes State is among 38 where varying degrees of open carry is permitted. With a renewed interest in exercising that right, some protestors are rubbing communities in very much the wrong way — not a favorable result if they truly support their cause.
Of course, the Lone Star State remains the quintessential poster child for counter-productive 2nd Amendment activism — Michigan being close on their heels. A few weeks ago, four Texas women from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America were lunching in a Dallas family-restaurant when they were met by two-dozen protestors from Open Carry Texas brandishing long guns and an American flag in the parking lot. The Daily Beast reports that the group hung around for about 15 minutes then headed over to the local Hooters to revel in their success. Texas law does not permit open carry of handguns, but does allow long guns, including assault rifles like AK-47s. The law states that guns may not be displayed “in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm.” Two-dozen gun-toting protestors confronting four unarmed moms….adds up to intimidation by any calculation.
Michigan is not without similar controversy. Nearly a year ago, in a mind-boggling act of insensitivity, the state legislature passed a law to allow concealed carry of weapons in public schools — on the same day as the Sandy Hook massacre. Ultimately, Gov. Snyder refused to sign the bill into law. The veto, in part, helped spur along a renewed interest in protecting existing open carry laws in the state, particularly in schools.
The Michigan Supreme Court refused last week to hear an appeal from the Capitol Area District Libraries over a Court of Appeals decision which struck down their policy banning guns on library premises. The high court voted 6 to 1 to take a pass on the case, allowing the lower court decision to stand which argued that the legislature has sole responsibility for establishing gun laws. The Lansing-area library policy had been established in response to Michigan Open Carry targeting the facility since 2011 as a site to demonstrate their rights. What may seem like a gun rights victory might actually serve to inspire reluctant lawmakers to re-examine open carry rules in the state. The judiciary lobbed the ball back to congress.
In January of this year, Rep. Andy Schor (D-68) introduced HB-4104, a bill to create true gun-free zones. Currently, Michigan law does not allow general open carry in schools, but makes an exception for concealed weapon permit holders to open carry in the classroom. While gun advocates may think this is a great idea, schools and law enforcement are finding it not only frightening, but very disruptive and costly. The Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police voted to support the bill within days of its introduction. William Mayes, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of School Administrators, says that lawmakers have indicated that Schor’s bill is a “non-starter” — a position that’s bound to evolve as activists continue to irritate schools and police departments across the state. Mayes commented on the problem of protestors carrying weapons in schools just to prove a point:
“The fact that there are groups of people wanting to push this position by open-carry on to school grounds is absolutely ludicrous and stupid.”
The problem is that, upon sight of a weapon, a school building must to go into immediate lockdown, resulting in a large-scale dispatch of law enforcement. School administrators are not in the position to determine if there is a real threat, so they are forced to act with extreme caution.
Rep. Schor’s bill looked destined to die a quiet death in the House Committee on Local Government, but now, in light of recent developments, it may be dusted-off for a second legislative look-see.
School districts across the state have joined in the chorus demanding legislative relief. Recently, the Allegan Educational Service Area Board of Education asked lawmakers to consider closing the loophole in Michigan’s law allowing concealed permit holders to walk into any school building openly carrying a firearm. Allegan Superintendent Mark Dobias told MLive this about open carry triggered lockdowns:
“It’s very disruptive to the learning environment, obviously. We’re just asking for a commonsense fix on this.”
Last September an incident at Clio Public Schools resulted in a police response when a father went to his daughter’s school carrying a loaded sidearm. Although, as a concealed permit holder, he was legally within his right to do so, his activism was less than well-received. Prior to his action, Kenneth Herman had sent an email to the school objecting to a “drug free, gun free” sign posted at the school. His email read:
“I realize with the most recent Newtown tragedy, you no doubt felt compelled to act in a ‘feel good’ show of security. However, such signage violates Michigan law. Furthermore, challenges of this law have been struck down by state of Michigan courts.”
Calling Herman’s action “disruptive”, Clio School Superintendent James Tenbusch didn’t challenge his right to carry a weapon, but he said this of the wisdom of the act:
“Just because you have a right to do something doesn’t mean you should.”
Michigan schools possess the legal authority to ask individuals to leave the property if they deem them disruptive to the academic environment, and a lockdown certainly would rise to the level of “disruptive” — in the current environment, carrying a firearm into a school has become much more complicated than a simple gun rights question. Lawmakers are negligent to not immediately fix this problem.
So, what does the chair of the House Committee on Education have to say about this? Rep. Lisa Posthumus-Lyons (R-86) equivocates with the best of them:
“I understand how someone openly carrying a gun in a school could distract from student learning, so I support changing the current law. On the other hand, I wholeheartedly support the rights of law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons, and I do not believe ‘gun-free zones’ make people safer.”
Lyons, once again, proves herself utterly useless.
Continued demonstrations of the increasingly tenuous right to open carry in schools are bound to eventually backfire and trigger legislation, if not now, soon. It will be among the top priorities when Democrats are in the position to act to correct these GOP affronts to common sense.
Gun rights activists are shooting themselves in the foot.
Amy Kerr Hardin