Michigan House adopts pro-2nd Amendment resolution on Moms Demand Action day

Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images

Michigan’s Republican-led state House voted Tuesday afternoon to adopt a resolution reaffirming the right of residents to keep and bear arms.

House Resolution 227 is one of several resolutions that state Rep. Gary Eisen (R-St. Clair Twp.) has introduced at both the state and local level to uphold citizens’ rights to bear arms.

Moms Demand Action activists, Feb. 25, 2020 | Anna Liz Nichols

The measures are inspired by the “Second Amendment sanctuary” movement, which began in Republican counties in Virginia last year in response to gun control legislation introduced by newly elected Democratic lawmakers.

Tuesday’s vote coincided with Moms Demand Action day at the Capitol. Activists from the group’s Michigan chapter came to advocate for gun control legislation. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a nonpartisan grassroots organization aimed at strengthening those reforms.

In a short speech before the roll call vote, Eisen said HR 227 is very important to him.

“I never get out of my chair unless it’s important,” said Eisen. 

HR 227 states that the Michigan Legislature “will ensure legislation in violation of our constitutional right to bear arms will not be imposed upon the citizens of Michigan by either the federal government or itself and would view such infringements as violations of both the Second Amendment and the Constitution of the State of Michigan of 1963.”

State Rep. Beau LaFave, a gun rights supporter, talks with a Moms Demand Action activist, Feb. 25, 2020 | Anna Liz Nichols

Before the vote, state Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Huntington Woods) urged the House to adopt a substitute to Eisen’s resolution that would encourage responsible gun ownership and advocate for safe, common-sense reforms to prevent gun violence.

Wittenberg, who co-chairs the Michigan Gun Violence Prevention Caucus, said he is “not anti-gun, but anti-gun violence and pro-responsible gun ownership.”

He added that the right to bear arms and responsible gun ownership are “not mutually exclusive,” and that as a concealed pistol license holder himself, he believes it is possible to solidify a pro-gun stance while making sure there are mechanisms in place to prevent weapons from getting into the wrong hands. Wittenberg listed background checks, safe storage laws and “red flag” laws as examples of some common-sense reforms.

“Just like all amendments, there are exceptions” to the Second Amendment, Wittenberg argued. He said that voting down his substitution and adopting HR 227 without it would show that Michigan only cares about guns, and not preventing gun violence.

Wittenberg’s substitution was voted down in a voice vote, and not adopted.

State Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Twp.) tweeted ahead of the vote on HR 227 with an explanation why she would be voting no, attaching a picture of a baby and insinuating that the resolution could potentially prevent the state Legislature from passing laws that could protect children from gun violence in schools.

State Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt), who also voted against the measure, released a statement after the vote condemning HR 227 as divisive and unnecessary.

“As a state legislator and as an attorney, I’ve already sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Michigan Constitution. House Resolution 227 is a needless, legally meaningless exercise that is meant to divide. The majority of Michiganders support reasonable efforts to reduce gun violence. This resolution won’t change that,” Hope said in her statement Tuesday.

Last fall, Hope clashed with House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) when she posted a sign asking that no firearms be brought into her office. Chatfield called it “discriminatory,” and sent Hope a written directive ordering her to take down the sign.

Speaker directs Democrat to end ‘gun-free’ policy in her House office

But the resolution didn’t just pass along party lines.  Eisen’s resolution was adopted Thursday afternoon by a vote of 75-32, with a number of Democrats, including state Rep. Brian Elder (D-Bay City) voting yes.

“I am happy to support HR 227 and I urge my colleagues to do the same,” Elder said before the vote, after a lengthy explanation of his personal reasons that draw largely on historical context.

Elder added that just as the First Amendment does not protect the rights of people to speak for any reason, the Second Amendment also has limits; for this reason, it does not protect felons or mentally ill individuals from obtaining firearms, or allow weapons to be carried in sensitive places like schools and federal buildings.