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Michigan Court of Appeals shoots down Lansing library firearms ban

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A state court has struck down a Lansing library’s ban on people openly carrying guns in its branches.

The Capitol Area District Library instituted its policy banning patrons from openly carrying firearms in 2005.

A group called Michigan Open Carry challenged the ban, claiming the ban violated a state law which blocks local units of government from instituting rules that restrict gun owners.     And a majority of the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed.

From the conclusion of the opinion released by the Court of Appeals:

We conclude that state law preempts CADL’s weapon policy to the extent that it attempts to regulate firearms contrary to the restrictions set forth in MCL 123.1102. The library is a quasi-municipal corporation and, thus, a governmental agency subject to the principles of preemption when it attempts to regulate subject matter that is regulated by the Legislature. The Legislature, through MCL 123.1102, has expressly prohibited local government regulation of firearms and ammunition generally in cities, villages, townships, and counties, including in their libraries. Although a district library is not a local unit of government as defined by MCL 123.1101(a), legislative history, the pervasiveness of the Legislature’s regulation of firearms, and the need for exclusive, uniform state regulation of firearm possession as compared to a patchwork of inconsistent local regulations indicate that the Legislature has completely occupied the field that CADL seeks to enter. Certainly, at a time where this country has witnessed tragic and horrific mass shootings in places of public gathering, the presence of weapons in a library where people of all ages—particularly our youth—gather is alarming and an issue of great concern. However, due to field preemption, the same regulations that apply to public libraries established by one local unit of government apply to those established by two or more local units of government—leaving the matter to the state.

Dean Greenblatt is the attorney for Michigan Open Carry.   He praised the Court of Appeals decision today. 

“This is a decision that reaffirms centuries of jurisprudence and at least to some extent our individual liberties enshrined in our state and federal constitutions," says Greenblatt.

Gary Bender is an attorney for the library.   He’s disappointed by the court’s ruling.

“The disappointment is that the majority opinion seems to recognize the unfortunate situation where firearms are brought into a library setting," says Bender.

He describes the opinion written by the court's majority as "tortured".

Bender says if the decision stands it may affect other libraries with similar firearm bans.

A decision on an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court may come next month.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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