BirminghamJuly 30, 2012
Baldwin petitions Lansing to ban open carrying in libraries
By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer
The Baldwin Public Library Board thinks its facility is where people want to see books, not bullets, and members are calling on lawmakers in Lansing to amend the state’s open carry law and ban visible weapons in libraries around Michigan.
According to Michigan law, firearms may be legally and openly carried into public establishments, including libraries, with few exceptions. In a letter sent to State Rep. Chuck Moss and Sen. John Pappageorge July 18, the board requested the Legislature seek to add libraries to the list of places where open possession of a firearm is unlawful. Doug Koschik, director of the library, said that at this time the board is not seeking a ban on concealed weapons.
Koschik said the letter was prompted by a protest held June 11 in Shain Park that drew a number of open-carry advocates. The protestors gathered in the park prior to appearing before the Birmingham City Commission that evening to show their support for 18-year-old Sean Combs of Troy. The teen had been arrested nearly two months earlier for carrying a firearm in the city’s downtown area and allegedly not cooperating with police. He has since been acquitted of all charges.
During the demonstration, Koschik said, several of the advocates entered the library with their weapons in order to use the restrooms. At one point, some of the protestors allowed TV news crews to accompany them into the library. The sight of the guns, Koschik said, made many library employees uncomfortable.
“Staff certainly was concerned, and somewhat upset. They did not feel comfortable. I definitely heard from them afterwards; it was definitely a disruption.”
Koschik said the request shouldn’t be viewed as a hit to Second Amendment rights, which guarantees U.S. citizens the right to keep and bear arms, but rather a minor adjustment to regulation at the state level.
“Every constitutional right carries with it some responsibility and limitations. Many of these are time, manner and place restrictions. The First Amendment allows you to openly state your opinion on a matter, but you can’t bring a sound system into the library and start broadcasting that opinion to everybody in the library. That would be a disruption. We view Second Amendment rights the same way. There is a right, but we believe it is reasonable not to allow the open carry of firearms into the library, especially in youth and teen areas.”
The letter was copied to Gov. Rick Snyder, candidates running for the 40th District House seat, and leaders in Baldwin’s contracting communities, including Bloomfield Hills Mayor Sarah McClure, Bingham Farms Council President Delores Tripp and Beverly Hills Village Council President Rosanne Koss. The Library Board hopes those entities will throw their support behind the effort.
“We want to stress that at this point, we are not getting involved in the Constitution issue. There is nothing about the Second Amendment (in the letter). State law allows the open carry of firearms into public areas like public libraries. That’s what we want to see changed,” said Koschik.
But to some, the move is a direct attack on Second Amendment rights. John Roshek is the president and CEO of the Citizens League for Self Defense. He was present at the rally June 11, and even addressed the commission during its meeting that evening. He said that while he understands some people might be skittish at the sight of visible firearms, that’s no excuse for going against the Constitution.
“It’s absolutely a violation. Michigan law is pretty clear. The library is a public building, and for the library to have a special exception is really just absurd and a little bit posturing on their part,” he said. “It’s like saying the child has more authority than the parent. The city doesn’t have the authority to ban firearms, and the library certainly doesn’t.”
Roshek said he plans to attend another commission meeting to voice his group’s disapproval of the matter.
“Anytime a city looks to violate the Second Amendment, or not uphold someone’s constitutional right, we’ll be there. These are public buildings funded by tax dollars, and to tell someone they can’t enter a public building — the law is very clear.”
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