Speaker directs Democrat to end ‘gun-free’ policy in her House office

By: - October 2, 2019 6:52 pm

“Gun-free” policy sign outside Rep. Kara Hope’s office that has been taken down | Susan J. Demas

Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) says a policy prohibiting guns in the office of state Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt) is “discriminatory” and has asked her to refrain from implementing the restriction.

Rep. Kara Hope | House Democrats photo

On open carry day, Sept. 10, when 2nd Amendment activists rallied at the Capitol with firearms, Hope posted a sign on her door in the House Office Building stating that it is a “gun-free” office.

Chatfield told Hope to take the sign down that day, but Hope said she needed “a directive in writing with the reasons.” She did not get the letter from Chatfield until Wednesday, she told the Advance.

“Such a discriminatory policy is not only unauthorized but potentially unlawful, and you are hereby directed to immediately refrain from its adoption or implementation,” Chatfield wrote in the directive.

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Hope, who has sponsored gun reform legislation, said she is complying with the directive due to the speaker’s power as administrator of the House and is concerned that if she did not take the sign down, he could cut her office’s budget.

“I am only yielding based on what he could do, but I still disagree with his interpretation of the Constitution. I have a big problem with how the speaker characterized the sign on my door,” said Hope. “My intent was never to discriminate against people, and I don’t think I did that by putting my sign up. I don’t think it’s possible to discriminate against an inanimate object, but If I discriminated against anything, I guess it was guns.”

“Gun-free” policy sign outside Rep. Kara Hope’s office that has been taken down | Susan J. Demas

Hope said she posted the sign to ensure her constituents felt safe coming to her office.

“The Speaker is forcing me to sacrifice the First Amendment rights of any constituent looking to enter my office and speak with their elected representative in an environment where they feel safe, and that is not something I should be asked to do,” Hope said in a press release Wednesday. “The sign was simply there in an effort to ensure the safety of anyone in my office on Sept. 10, the day of the Second Amendment rally.”

Speaker Lee Chatfield | Nick Manes

Chatfield wrote in his letter to Hope that her safety and that of her employees “remains of paramount importance to the House.” He said that any threats to Hope’s safety will be taken seriously and addressed by the House team of sergeants.

“Michigan residents have a constitutional right to petition their representatives. Legislators legally cannot place categorical restrictions on that right, including for citizens exercising other constitutional rights,” added Gideon D’Assandro, a spokesman for Chatfield.

In 2018, Chatfield carried an unregistered loaded handgun in his bag while going through a security checkpoint at Pellston Regional Airport. He was not criminally charged by Emmet County Prosecutor James Linderman, who claimed under current state statute the prosecution was not possible. Chatfield faced a $250 fine for not registering the firearm and a $1,960 fine to the federal Transportation Security Administration for the incident.

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Hope referenced that in her press release.

“Given his history, I know Speaker Chatfield has a very casual, even careless attitude toward guns, but I do not share that attitude,” she said. “Yet because the Speaker is the person who ultimately controls our office allotment — and therefore the resources I am able to use to serve my constituents — I feel as though I have no choice but to adhere to his demand.”

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.