This past week, the Michigan State Capitol Commission rejected a ban on firearms at the State Capitol Building, both within the building and on its grounds. Many have posed questions on what restrictions there are when it comes to municipal buildings and firearms carry.

In the edition of the "Sheriff's Corner," I explain the preemption law and how it is applied to government buildings and how it affects the general public and local municipal employees. The below includes excerpts of an article from Steven Dulan, Attorney at Law; who is a colleague of mine who I sit on the board of directors with of the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners (MCRGO).

Note: This is not meant to be a pro-gun or anti-gun article. This is solely being used to explain what the law is and how it is applies.

Prior to 1990, Michigan did not have a firearms preemption statute. Back then, local units of government, including cities, counties, and townships, could enact their own ordinances restricting activities such as open carry of firearms.

They were also free to add requirements to the pistol purchase permit, such as mandating a special firearms safety class, many of which were never offered, creating what we call “de facto” (a matter of fact, rather than law) pistol purchase bans in their localities.

The State of Michigan stepped in with Public Act 319 of 1990 (effective March 28, 1991), which was an effort to standardize gun law across the state.

Codified as MCL 123.1102, the law states:

“A local unit of government shall not impose special taxation on, enact or enforce any ordinance or regulation pertaining to, or regulate in any other manner the ownership, registration, purchase, sale, transfer, or possession of pistols or other firearms, ammunition for pistols or other firearms or components of pistols or other firearms, except as otherwise provided by federal law or a law of this state.”

MCL 123.1101 defines "Local unit of government," as "a city, township or county.”

These two sections go a long way toward creating a consistent system of firearms regulation across the state. However, there are entities, such as The University of Michigan, that claim the right to regulate firearms more strictly than the rest of the state because of a limited definition of “local unit of government” in the statute.

In fact, the Michigan State Constitution treats Michigan State University, The University of Michigan, and Wayne State University, almost as their own branches of government, in that they are given broad authority to regulate on their own.

It is worth noting that Michigan State University took the opposite approach to U of M many years ago when their Board of Trustees amended MSU’s ordinance to allow Michigan law to control firearms on its property. We have not heard of any ill effects since this change went into effect.

Note: As stated above, since these three universities generally act as a quasi fourth unit of government, "you" as state residents are involved in electing these officials. When you see the ballot Nov. 3, you will see that "you" are voting for the Board of Regents or the Board of Directors of these three universities. With the ability of them enacting their own laws that may not be alignment with state statute, "you" are involved on electing those governing officials.

However, even cities, townships and counties retain some of their power to regulate firearms under the preemption statute.

MCL 123.1103 says:

“This act does not prohibit a local unit of government from doing either of the following: (a) Prohibiting or regulating conduct with a pistol or firearm that is a criminal offense under state law. (b) Prohibiting or regulating the transportation, carrying, or possession of pistols or other firearms by employees or that local unit of government in the course of their employment with that local unit of government.”

So, local units of government still have the power to make their own ordinances punishing conduct that is identical to state statutes. They usually use slightly different language such as enacting the offense of “flourishing” which is the same as “brandishing” in the state statute. This allows the local unit of government to prosecute the offense if the county prosecutor’s office declines to prosecute for any reason.

Local units of government also have rights as employers. So, just as private employers can, they may regulate the conduct of their employees within the scope of employment, including conduct involving firearms.

Note: As a township cannot ban an individual from carrying a firearm in a township hall or fire department, they can restrict their employees from carrying firearms in accordance with their duties. For example, they could restrict a firefighter from carrying a firearm when responding to a fire, while on scene, or prohibit them from possessing a firearm at the fire hall.

However, under MCL 28.425n:

“(1) This state or a local unit of government of this state shall not prohibit an individual for doing either of the following as a condition for receiving or maintaining any other license or permit authorized by law:

(a) Applying for or receiving a license to carry a concealed pistol under this act.

(b) Carrying a concealed pistol in compliance with the license issued under this act.

(2) Except as provided in subsection (3), an employer shall not prohibit an employee from doing either of the following:

(a) Applying for or receiving a license to carry a concealed pistol under this act.

(b) Carrying a concealed pistol in compliance with a license issued under this act. This subdivision does not prohibit an employer from prohibiting an employee from carrying a concealed pistol in the course of his or her employment with that employer.

(3) A police agency may prohibit an employee of that police agency from carrying a concealed pistol if carrying a concealed pistol would result in increased insurance premiums or a loss of coverage for that employer.”

So, a local unit of government cannot prevent its employees for applying for, or being granted, a CPL. But, they can prevent their employees from carrying while on the job.

And MCL 123.1104 says: “This act does not prohibit a city or charter township.”

So, cities and charter townships can prevent actually firing a gun within their jurisdictions. According to the Michigan Township Association, there are only 138 Charter Townships in Michigan, which would have this ability to regulate.

There is a restriction when it pertains to a courtroom. Supreme Court Administrative Order 2001-1 states:

"It is ordered that weapons are not permitted in any courtroom, office, or other space used for official court business or by judicial employees unless the chief judge or other person designated by the chief judge has given prior approval consistent with the court's written policy."

So, there is an argument to be made that this only restricts someone from carrying in a "courtroom...or other space used for official court business...", not the entire county building which could fall under the preemption law.

Another thing to note is that the above has no bearing on "federal" buildings, institutions or property. There are several federal laws and case laws that prohibit firearms on federal property such as military bases, recruiting offices, post offices, federal court houses, social security administration, etc.

— This information is provided to you for clarification on specific laws, and not legal advice. This is not to be construed as a personal opinion, agreement or disagreement of any specific law. If you have any questions on any specific topic, you may always email me your questions to rmartin@co.lake.mi.us.