A group of armed protesters entered the Michigan Capitol building while lawmakers were debating legislation on the floor last week, demanding an end to coronavirus-caused lockdown measures. It was a striking scene made possible by the state’s open-carry law, and it worried many of the politicians present. Now, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants to change the law to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“There are legislators who are wearing bulletproof vests to go to work,” Whitmer said in an interview with NBC on Wednesday. “No one should be intimidated by someone who’s bringing in an assault rifle into their workplace. And so there is conversation about changing that law. I think it’s long overdue, and I absolutely support that change. You shouldn’t be intimidated going to be the voice of the people who elected you.”
Whitmer and her lockdown measures have endured some of the most scrutiny and criticism of all U.S. governors amid the coronavirus pandemic, not only because Michigan is one of the hardest-hit states but also because she’s rumored to be a potential choice for Joe Biden’s running mate.
“There’s no question that there’s intense pressure to reopen, whether it’s coming from the White House or the people of our state, and that’s playing out all across the country,” Whitmer said of the protests. “We are Americans. We are used to having our freedoms, and I think in this moment we’ve had to ask people to make sacrifice, and people are getting weary of it.
“And yet we know that the data tells us COVID-19 is still a very real threat in this country, all across the country. So while we’ve been able to achieve some flattening of the curve, we are by no means done with COVID-19, and that’s why we’ve got to be really smart.”
Whether or not Whitmer will be able to make it illegal to bring guns into the Capitol is unclear. The Michigan state legislature is controlled by Republicans, and while some were bothered by the armed protests, others have argued that the act should be allowed under the Second Amendment.
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