Open carry debated before GR commission

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids City Commission meeting turned into a heated debate about guns after a group of people showed up openly carrying handguns.

“I note the presence of a number of armed civilians in our audience tonight. That may make you uncomfortable. I know it makes me uncomfortable,” Mayor George Heartwell said to open the Tuesday evening meeting.

Open carry is legal under Michigan law, but Heartwell has repeatedly said he’s against it at city commission meetings.

After the commission dealt with everything on its agenda, the gun debate soon became the main focus as several residents made statements about it — some quite emotional.

Tom Lambert is among the group that says it is citizens’ right to openly carry guns at public meetings.  He has been openly carrying at city commissions for some time.

Heartwell told Lambert that if he put his hand on the gun, he would end the meeting. And when residents clapped after Lambert made his statement, Heartwell said he would end the meeting if the applause continued.

“I know a lot of people who carry guns, and they are all respectful,” one pro-open carry resident said.

“I’ve been sitting during this meeting and watching people who carry concealed or open being villainized by most speakers here,” a woman added.

Several other residents expressed concern about open carry. One said he lost four family members to gun violence.

“I can’t stand here without fear for my life,” he said.

Another said openly carrying was a form of bullying.

“I want to address the people in here carrying weapons. It’s just offensive and makes me uncomfortable,” another said.

Former Grand Rapids mayor John Logie also spoke at the meeting. He said he is a gun owner, but thinks that if people want to come to the meetings with gun, they should be examined at the door so that everyone knows “who’s packing heat.”

Mayor Heartwell said he disapproves of residents carrying guns at the meetings and doesn’t think there is any common ground. He said he will continue to fight for gun-free meetings until that becomes regulation.

“As long as I’m sitting in this chair, and as long as this commission is in place, we are fundamentally opposed to guns in public meetings,” Heartwell said.

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