HELENA, Mont. – In the past year, insurrectionists have breached the U.S. Capitol and armed protesters have forced their way into statehouses around the country. But the question of whether guns should be allowed in capitol buildings remains political, and states are going in opposite directions.
In Montana, a law signed Thursday allows anyone with a permit to bring a concealed firearm into the Statehouse, reversing a decadeslong ban and fulfilling a longtime hope of Republicans who took control of the governor's mansion and the Legislature this year. GOP-dominated Utah passed a law this month allowing people to carry concealed weapons in its Capitol and elsewhere in the state without a permit.
Guns are allowed in statehouses in some form in 21 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 even as many have closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Several other states, though, are moving to restrict guns inside their capitols. In Michigan, where armed protesters forced their way inside the Statehouse last year and the FBI said it uncovered a plot to kidnap the governor, a state panel banned the open carry of guns after the Jan. 6 riot in Washington, D.C.
Democratic state Sen. Dayna Polehanki said that “tensions are high” in Michigan following the assaults, 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.
Vermont lawmakers, meanwhile, are considering expanding their Statehouse ban on guns to other government buildings. In Washington state, a measure that would ban open carry of guns in the Capitol and near permitted demonstrations has cleared a committee and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate.