This article has been updated to include comment from CADL.
Michigan district libraries, like other Michigan public libraries, may not ban guns, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled today.
The ruling reverses the decision of the Ingham County Circuit Court, which last May held in favor of the Capital Area District Library (CADL)’s weapons policy, which reads “all weapons are banned from Library premises to the fullest extent permitted by law.”
The court disagreed with Michigan Open Carry, which argued that CADL had no authority to make such a rule under the District Library Establishment Act. Despite that, the court held that Michigan’s doctrine of field preemption takes precedence, giving the state exclusive authority to regulate weapons.
Gary Bender, attorney for CADL, said in a statement that “CADL’s board and director are stunned that the weapons policy was overturned and continues to believe that it has the authority to ban the open carry of weapons in its branches in order to protect library patrons of all ages and CADL staff.” As to an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, Bender said that the board will decide whether to apply for leave to appeal in the near future.
The wording of the court’s verdict left little doubt that Judges Jame Beckering and Henry William Saad found the result unfortunate, though legally necessary. “We are obligated to interpret and apply the law, regardless of whether we personally like the outcome,” the ruling said. “Certainly, at a time 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.”
Judge Elizabeth Gleicher dissented, saying the field preemption doctrine applies only to local units of government as defined by the legislature, which did not mention district libraries.
According to the Detroit Free Press, a bill is before the Legislature to add libraries to the list of places where weapons can’t be carried. However Michigan state Rep. Chuck Moss told the Baldwin Public Library board, “I see little chance that the current Legislature will accomplish this by the end of the year,” according to The Observer & Eccentric. HR 4438 and 4439 were introduced in March and referred to the judiciary committee, but that’s as far as they got.