As GOP Lawmakers Fight for 2nd Amendment Rights, Dems Come for Guns in State Capitols


Republican and Democratic state lawmakers are going in opposite directions on the question of whether guns should be allowed in capitol buildings.

In Montana, a new state law signed Thursday allows anyone with a permit to bring a concealed firearm into the statehouse, reversing a policy banning guns inside the Capitol and fulfilling a longtime hope of Republicans who took control of the Legislature as well as the governorship this year.

GOP-dominated Utah passed a law this month allowing people to carry concealed weapons in its Capitol building and elsewhere in the state without a permit.

Guns are allowed in statehouses in 21 U.S. states, according to a review by The Associated Press. Eight states allow only concealed firearms inside their capitols, while two states allow only open carry.

Montana and Utah are two of at least 13 states that do not have metal detectors at the entrance to their capitols. The statehouses are open to the public.

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Several other states, though, are moving to restrict guns inside their capitols.

In Michigan, a state panel banned the open carrying of firearms after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Democratic state Sen. Dayna Polehanki said that “tensions are high” in Michigan, and she’s disappointed that concealed weapons are still allowed in the statehouse.

“What they said is that weapons, guns, bullets are still welcome in our state capitol as long as we can’t see them. It doesn’t make anyone safer,” she said.

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Vermont lawmakers, meanwhile, are considering expanding their statehouse ban on guns to other government buildings.

In Washington state, a bill that would ban open carry in the statehouse and near permitted demonstrations has won early approval.

“The purpose of openly carrying a weapon is to chill other people’s voices. And it works,” Democratic state Sen. Patty Kuderer, the bill’s sponsor, said.

In Montana, Republican Rep. Seth Berglee said the U.S. Capitol riot didn’t affect his thinking about the law he sponsored.

“People that have a permit are extremely law-abiding, and they are the type of people I would want to have around. I see them as being a deterrent to bad things happening,” he said.

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Democratic House Minority Leader Kim Abbott suggested guns carry with them the risk of violence during ever more contentious debates.

“If you have more guns in the building when you’re talking about things that are so personal and intense … you do worry about things escalating,” she said.

There’s a similar proposal this year in Oklahoma, where gun rights advocates are once again pushing to allow people to carry firearms inside the Capitol with a license. It hasn’t yet had a hearing.

“A person needs to be able to protect themselves, no matter where they are,” Don Spencer, president of the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association, said.

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