The Dearborn Library Commission refrained from joining a growing chorus of Michigan libraries that have appealed to state lawmakers to revise gun laws to prohibit so-called “open carrying” of loaded firearms in public libraries.
Library Director Maryanne Bartles had her staff draft a letter from the library commission that would be sent to members of Michigan’s legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder requesting that they add libraries to the list of entities excepted from the state’s open carry laws. The letter is in support of House Bill 4439, which would amend the law to add libraries to that list.
But some commissioners were leery about sending letter; opting instead to wait another month to ruminate on the issue to determine if sending the letter is within the policy-setting role of the commission.
“I don’t want to offend anyone,” said Commissioner Candyce Abbatt, who added that it could set the library up for opposition in the community it did not seek or ask for.
Commission Chair Marcel Pultorak, who is licensed to carry a concealed weapon, agreed that this was something the library did not ask for, and accepted Bartles’ suggestion to wait on sending the communication.
The proposed letter drafted by the library states that:
“We are urging that the Michigan Open Carry Law be amended so that loaded forearms not be allowed in Michigan Libraries. We support HB 4439 which adds ‘libraries’ as places where firearms, except as provided currently, are not permitted. This will allow those who seek to openly carry to be excluded. We respectfully request that this bill be acted upon as quickly as possible.”
A thorny issue
The issue of open carry in libraries emerged in June of this year after a group of gun rights advocates held a protest at Shain Park in Birmingham, near the Baldwin Library. Eventually, some of the protesters used the bathroom at the library—with their weapons.
In Dearborn, as with several other libraries, administrators are concerned that guns in libraries could cause a disruption, or a dangerous situation because of the number of people who use libraries, and the number of children that avail themselves of library services.
Municipal governments are not endowed with powers to regulate firearm possession; Michigan Compiled Law 750.234 specifies several locations where openly-carried weapons are not permitted. That list includes churches, courts, theaters, arenas, day care centers, hospitals, and establishments that hold licensure under the Michigan Liquor Control Act. HB 4439, if signed into law, would add libraries to the list.