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October 26, 2012

COA Opinion: District libraries cannot ban firearms

In Capitol Area District Library v Michigan Open Carry, Inc, the Michigan Court of Appeals barred the Capitol Area District Library (the 'CADL') from enforcing its ban on openly carrying firearms into its libraries. The Court held that MCL 123.1102 completely occupies the field of firearm regulation and, therefore, CADL's policy was preempted.

Defendant Michigan Open Carry, Inc. works to protect and promote self-defense and gun ownership. On multiple occasions, several of its members openly carried guns into CADL's downtown Lansing branch. CADL adopted a policy against this practice and filed suit seeking declaratory relief establishing the validity of its policy.

The circuit court held the CADL had authority to enforce its ban under the District Library Establishment Act ('DLEA') and that MCL 123.1102 does not preempt CADL's weapon policy. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Court agreed that the DLEA authorized CADL's policy, but disagreed as to preemption. The Court held that MCL 123.1102 completely occupies the field of firearm regulation and, therefore, preempts CADL's policy.

MCL 123.1102 prohibits local units of government from imposing their own regulations on gun ownership and carrying. Although the majority determined that CADL did not expressly fall under the definition of 'local unit of government' for the purposes of MCL 123.1102, it found that libraries are quasi-municipal corporations subject to preemption. The court held that the Llewellyn factors'express preemption, legislative history, pervasiveness, and uniformity'favored preemption here.

Judge Gleicher wrote separately, concurring with the majority that the DLEA permits CADL to enforce its policy but dissenting from the majority's preemption holding. Judge Gleicher relied on the plain language of ' 1101(a), defining a 'governmental unit' as 'a city, village, township, or county.' That definition omitted libraries. Therefore, Judge Gleicher reasoned that the Legislature clearly did not intend the statute to effect libraries' ability to regulate firearms, and there was no preemption.

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