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Michigan judge halts state official's ban on open carry of guns at polling places

By Beth LeBlanc, The Detroit News on

Published in News & Features

DETROIT — Michigan Court of Claims Judge Christopher Murray issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday that effectively halts Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson's directive banning the open carry of guns near polling locations on Election Day.

Attorney General Dana Nessel announced almost immediately after the decision was issued that her office would appeal to the Court of Appeals "as this issue is of significant public interest and importance to our election process."

The edict by Benson "smacks of an attempt at legislation" and lacks public input instead of following the regular rule-making process, Murray said during a Tuesday emergency hearing. Further, the state already has a law prohibiting voter intimidation, said Murray, an appointee of Republican former Gov. John Engler.

"The Legislature has said: Here are the places you cannot carry a weapon," Murray said during the hearing. "The secretary has expanded that. And so how is that in accordance with state law?"

Murray argued Benson could have implemented such a rule over a months-long process, but Nessel's office pushed back.

The need for this directive has grown during the last several weeks, specifically after the details of the alleged plot against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer were revealed, Nessel's representatives argued.

 

"There's no inconsistency," Assistant Attorney General Heather Meingast said. "There is no affirmative right to open carry in all places at all times."

Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield welcomed the decision, which he framed as a repudiation of administrative overreach.

"Time after time the courts have struck down this administration when it overreaches," Chatfield wrote on Twitter. "Firearms. Line 5. Redistricting. Vaping. Emergency powers. Nobody is above the law. It can't be sidestepped. We have a democratic process. It needs to be followed."

In his decision, Murray noted that the Democratic secretary of state's prohibition on the open carry of firearms at polling places appeared to be more than an interpretation of existing statute. It was a rule that should be subjected to the rule-making process, he wrote.

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