Foster Swift Municipal Law News
The Michigan Court of Appeals recently struck down a district library’s policy which banned weapons from library premises in Capital Area District Library v Michigan Open Carry, Inc. Capital Area District Library (CADL) is a district library established by an agreement between a city and a county. Once established, the district library is essentially an independent public body with the authority to establish its own policies. Pursuant to CADL’s policy, all weapons were banned from the library to the fullest extent permitted by law.
Michigan Open Carry, Inc. (MOC) is a nonprofit corporation with the stated purpose to educate the public about the lawful carrying of a firearm. On multiple occasions in late 2011, members of MOC openly carried guns in one of CADL’s branches. CADL desired to enforce its policy; however, the Lansing police refused to remove a person from a CADL branch without a court order.
On February 15, 2011, CADL filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment establishing the validity of its weapons policy and injunctive relief to enforce the policy. CADL received the requested relief but MOC appealed. On appeal, the Court stated that the Library’s “no weapons” policy was preempted by state law and therefore unenforceable.
The Court applied the standards of “preemption,” which means either:
- the local regulation directly conflicts with the state statutes or
- that the state exclusively occupies the field of regulation and that local units of government have no authority to regulate even if there is no direct conflict.
Addressing the first prong, the Legislature adopted a series of statutes that prevented “local units of government” from adopting local policies regarding firearm regulations. Under the statute, “local unit of government” meant a “city, village, township or county.” MCL 123.1101(a). From the strict reading of the definition, district libraries or “authorities” were not specifically defined. Here, there was no direct conflict under the first prong because a district library was not prohibited by statute from adopting the no weapons policy.
However, the Court found the district library was preempted under the second prong of the preemption analysis. Simply stated, the Court reasoned that the regulation of firearm possession is a matter better left to the state legislature rather than allowing a multitude of local governmental policies to exist.
The State Legislature could take up the issue and pass specific laws which regulate weapon possession in a library, but no such proposals have been made yet.