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Wednesday, January 26,2011

Bauer to seek weapons limits

Two Democrats have opposing views on gun-free zones following incidents at the Capital Area District Library

by Andy Balaskovitz

In the wake of two men openly carrying guns in the downtown branch of the Capital Area District Library, state Rep. Joan Bauer is preparing legislation that would add public libraries to the short list of facilities that are exempt from the state’s open carry law.


Bauer, D-Lansing, is in the process of crafting language that would include public libraries under Michigan’s pistol-free zones. Libraries would be added to schools, college dorms or classrooms, casinos, entertainment facilities that hold more than 2,500 people and taverns.


Also, state Rep. Richard LeBlanc, D-Westland, has introduced House Bill 4009, which would repeal the state’s pistolfree zones entirely.


A man walked into the downtown branch on Dec. 11 with a shotgun strapped to his shoulder. Another entered on Jan. 3 with a handgun holstered to his hip. Both left after library authorities asked them to do so.


CADL has a policy prohibiting weapons. The CADL board voted unanimously Jan. 19 to keep the policy in place, based on advice from the library’s attorney, Vince Spagnuolo.


The gun-rights group Michigan Open Carry criticized CADL’s no-weapons policy after the incidents.


Rule three in CADL’s code of conduct says: “All weapons are banned from Library premises to the fullest extent permitted by law.”


The “fullest extent permitted by law” is the part that stirred Michigan Open Carry members, said Rob Harris, vice president of the group.


Open Carry contends the downtown library is not a pistol-free zone because it is not technically a school, even though school activities are held there and the building is leased from the Lansing School District.


Harris said he has contacted attorneys with the city and Ingham County.


“If the county and city choose to not correct this issue, then it could absolutely go to court,” Harris said.


CADL Director Lance Werner also cited the “fullest extent permitted by law” clause. Werner said the clause protects people carrying a concealed weapon but not those who openly carry one. The library enforces the policy by asking anyone visibly carrying a weapon to leave, he said.


“If they refuse to leave we would call law enforcement,” he said, adding that it would be up to the police department to deal with the issue.


Harris said some Michigan Open Carry members plan to attend Feb. 7’s Lansing City Council meeting to discuss the issue.

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