Capitol Commission member hopes news of thwarted Whitmer murder plot will spur action on gun ban

MSCC delays meeting amid talks with GOP leaders

By: - October 9, 2020 3:10 pm

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

Updated, 4:33 pm., 10/9/20 with comment from Chatfield’s office

The small historic commission charged with whether and how to prohibit firearms from the Michigan Capitol is waiting at least another month to proceed, a Michigan State Capitol Commission (MSCC) member told the Advance Friday.

The next MSCC general meeting had been scheduled for Monday, but Commissioner Bill Kandler said that was canceled about a week ago — “because there was nothing on our agenda,” he said. That cancelation marks the seventh time the panel has delayed a decision on the issue of guns at the Capitol.

The commission’s next general meeting is slated for 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 9.

Kandler says it is not unusual for the commission to cancel or push back their meetings if there is nothing to review or vote on. He emphasized that the meeting had been canceled days before members had any inkling about the news that broke Thursday, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Attorney General Dana Nessel, Michigan’s two U.S. District Attorneys and the Michigan State Police announced that they had thwarted an elaborate anti-government terrorist plot.

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That plan, to be carried out by at least 13 men who are all now facing multiple terrorist and conspiracy charges, involved storming and taking over the state Capitol by force, kidnapping state officials, abducting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer from her vacation home to try her for “treason” and possibly murder her, planting improvised explosive devices and targeting the homes of law enforcement officials.

As for whether the news of the foiled murder plot might affect the MSCC’s plans going forward or at least heighten the importance of acting on guns, Kandler told the Advance he hopes it will.

“Hopefully,” Kandler said, adding that he has not spoken to any of his fellow commissioners since the news broke but is sure they are all “very aware of it.”

“It’s awful. It’s terrible. … This is a strange environment right now,” he said. “The encouragement coming from the top, from Washington, just encourages people, I think. [The right-wing extremists] are always there, but [President Donald Trump] encouraged them to say, well, we’re legitimate. We’re gonna take action. It’s really striking.”

Kandler said he believes that the only action the MSCC can take would be to ban the open carry of firearms from the state Capitol because it would be easily enforceable by the Michigan State Police. Anything beyond that would be up to the GOP-led state Legislature because of the tools necessary to enforce it.

A panel keeps delaying action to ban guns in Michigan’s Capitol. But supporters remain optimistic.

“I really believe that the limit of our authority is to ban open carry. If we banned everything [including concealed carry], we could do that, but we can’t enforce it. We have no ability to put any equipment in or hire a security staff, anything. The Legislature has to get involved to do that,” Kandler said.

“And, I mean, they could do the whole – they could do everything. But they decided so far not to act on that. So we’re hoping we can make some kind of progress.”

Kandler added that he does not yet know whether GOP leaders would consider getting involved for a possible concealed carry ban, despite meeting with them last week to discuss regulating firearms in the Capitol.

Along with MSCC Vice-Chair John Truscott, Kandler met with Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) on Wednesday, Sept. 30 for what Kandler described as a “good and constructive conversation.”

No decisions or recommendations were made, but Kandler said that he felt the discussion was “promising.” The plan going forward is for the GOP leaders to speak with other members of their caucus about the possibilities they discussed with Kandler and Truscott, then get back to the commission to hold yet another conversation between GOP leaders and MSCC representatives.

Shirkey and Chatfield were both present at an anti-lockdown demonstration at the state Capitol Thursday, hosted by Chatfield’s father the Rev. Stanley Chatfield III, just hours after the news of the terrorism plot broke.

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Shirkey spokesperson Amber McCann, when asked for comment on how the meeting went from Shirkey’s perspective, responded only with: “The Majority Leader appreciates the commissioners taking the time to meet.”

Chatfield spokesperson Gideon D’Assandro said the Speaker “felt the conversation went well, and he appreciates the commissioners taking the time to share their thoughts.”*

Neither Truscott nor Commissioner Joan Bauer responded to a request for comment.

“You know, I would love to have all weapons banned from the Capitol building, and I wish I could — I wish we could do that. I wish we could effectuate that. We can’t,” Kandler said.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).