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AG investigates 'credible threats' to state officials as Capitol gun ban considered

Michigan Capitol Building
Posted at 5:50 PM, May 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-08 18:44:41-04

LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — On the same day she announced that a ban on firearms can be enacted by the Michigan Capitol Commission, Attorney General Dana Nessel said that her office is investigating threats to state officials.

“Something that people should know is that we have seen, and my office actually is currently investigating, credible threats to state officials and to law enforcement,” Nessel said in a phone interview with WXYZ’s Ross Jones. “So, in my opinion, this situation is a ticking time bomb.”

Nessel would not comment on the nature of the threats, or if they are related to recent protests in Lansing where armed men and women entered the capitol to protest Governor Whitmer’s stay at home orders.

In her letter to the Michigan Capitol Commission, which manages the state capitol building, Nessel said “the Commission is not constrained from enacting procedures limiting firearms at facilities under its control.”

Her letter follows a push by lawmakers, including Rep. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), who said she felt threatened by armed protesters inside the building. In the Senate, armed men were seen hovering in the Senate gallery.

“We were thinking to ourselves, what if I don’t vote the way they want me to vote?” Anthony said. “What are the consequences?”

In addition to firearms, some protesters carried swastikas, nooses and Confederate flags that led Anthony to conclude that the Capitol “is “not a safe place right now for those of us who work there every day.”

Earlier this week, in a video posted by Lansing City Pulse, Anthony was seen walking into the Capitol building with armed escorts of her own. She told 7 Action News that the men were some of her constituents who reached out following last week’s protests.

“They contacted me and said Rep. Anthony, we care about your safety and it didn’t look like you had the protection you needed to just do the job that we sent you there to do as our state rep,” she said.

On Monday, the Michigan Capitol Commission will meet and is expected to discuss Nessel’s letter, but commission member John Truscott, a Republican, didn’t sound persuaded by her argument.

“It’s not an official Attorney General’s opinion,” Truscott said, “so it doesn’t carry the weight of law, so we really can’t use it to act on it.”

He said he expects a presentation by the commission’s legal counsel at the same meeting, but doesn’t believe a ban would be allowed under Michigan law.

“Because open carry is state law, we don’t have authority to overturn that,” he said.

Nessel warned that inaction by the commission could have devastating consequences.

“If the Capitol Commission or the legislature fails to act, it’s not a matter of if there will be a serious incident at the Capitol,” she said, “it’s when.”