Over the past decade, the United States experienced several horrific gun tragedies, such as the Virginia Tech massacre and Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which inspired lively debates on gun reform. Recently on November 20, 2013, the Michigan Supreme Court denied Capital Area District Library’s (CADL) leave of appeal from the Michigan Court of Appeals (MCOA). In CADL v. Michigan Open Carry, the MCOA reversed a trial court’s finding that permitted CADL to regulate a weapons ban. Above all, many Ingham County residents are both concerned and perplexed on how the MCOA reached their decision.
CADL is a public district-library located in Ingham County that is financially supported by property taxes and state assistance. Michigan Open Carry (MOC) is a non-profit corporation, in which one of their many objectives is to “exercise a natural right to self-defense using…a handgun,” but in this case to “educate…the public…about the legality of the open carry of a handgun in public.” In an aggressive demonstration of their rights, members belonging to MOC openly carried guns in the downtown Lansing Branch between December 2010 and February 2011, members, which disturbed many CADL patrons and employees, along with residents of Ingham County. As a result, CADL’s operating board adopted a weapons ban, which stated “All weapons are banned from Library premises to the fullest extent permitted by law.” Further, this weapons ban led to increased open carry protests in CADL, which led CADL to file a suit to seek the validity of its weapons policy and enforcement.
On October 25, 2012, the MCOA issued a 2-1 decision, in which the MCOA explained how CADL’s weapon ban regulation is non-enforceable. The main issue presented before the MCOA was whether state law, MCL 123.1102, preempts lower level-government regulations like the weapons ban. Under MCL 123.1102, “a local unit of government shall not impose… any ordinance or regulation… the possession of pistols or other firearms…except as provided by federal or state law.” In this case, state preemption is appropriate where it satisfies the Llewellyn factors established previously by the Michigan Supreme Court. Moreover, the MCOA strongly emphasized that because CADL has an operating body, which regularly adopts regulations for their district branches, the CADL is a quasi-government entity. Further, the MCOA held that because CADL is a quasi-government entity, state preemption exists and thus, through MCL 123.1102, CADL’s weapon ban is non-enforceable.
The Second Amendment, Right to Bear Arms, is fundamental civil right that has largely been scrutinized, especially in the last decade. Interestingly, the MCOA acknowledged that “where this country has witnessed tragic and horrific mass shootings in places of public gathering, the presence of weapons in a library where people of all ages- particularly our youth- gather is alarming and an issue of great concern.” Perhaps the MCOA provided us with some insight on whether to reevaluate our current open carry laws in public libraries; however, it remains to be seen.
By: Fahd Haque, Law Clerk for Moss & Colella, P.C. If you have any questions, please email Fahd Haque at FHaque@mosscolella.com.