Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said Wednesday she would support a ban on weapons inside the state Capitol building following a dramatic protest against her coronavirus stay-at-home order by people carrying assault rifles.
Whitmer told NBC News on Wednesday that lawmakers should not be intimidated when they go to work during the pandemic. More than 45,000 people have been infected with the virus in the state and more than 4,250 have died.
“There are legislators who are wearing bulletproof vests to go to work,” Whitmer said. “No one should be intimidated by someone who’s bringing in an assault rifle into their workplace. And so there is conversation about changing that law.”
She continued: “I think it’s long overdue, and I absolutely support that change.”
Hundreds of protestors swarmed the state Capitol building last month in opposition to Whitmer’s extension of the stay-at-home orders, which had been set to expire on April 30. Some carried Confederate flags, swastikas and firearms.
Michigan has been hit with one of the worst outbreaks of the coronavirus, which prompted the governor to extend the order until at least May 15 (although she did ease some of the strictest guidelines).
“The fact of the matter is, we’re in a global pandemic,” Whitmer said after the protests. “This isn’t something we just negotiate ourselves out of.”
President Donald Trump has been urging states to reopen their economies as soon as possible, even amid warnings from the nation’s top medical experts that doing so too soon could prove catastrophic and lead to a surging death toll.
Trump has pressured Whitmer on Twitter to “give a little” and “make a deal.”
Republican leaders controlling Michigan’s state House and Senate sued Whitmer this week, saying the state of emergency she declared was unlawful.
“We saw the governor ignore the law, unilaterally extend the emergency, and write new executive orders,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said in a statement to CNN. “If left unchecked, the governor could extend her authority indefinitely. Michigan citizens cannot wait that long for a path forward to regain their lives and their livelihoods.”
Whitmer told NBC on Wednesday that there was “no question that there’s intense pressure to reopen,” but she refused to apologize for her actions.
“Whether it’s coming from the White House or the people of our state … that’s playing out all across the country,” she said. “We are Americans. We are used to having our freedoms, and I think in this moment we’ve had to ask people to make sacrifice, and people are getting weary of it.
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