July 20, 2012

Prying guns from their cold, dead, well-read hands


Photo Courtesy of Gothamist.com

Show me to the reference section . . . or else.

Meredith Schwartz reports in Library Journal about one Michigan library’s struggle to keep guns from between their stacks. The Michigan Court of Appeals heard oral arguments July 11th in the suit between the Capital Area District Library which serves Ingham County in Michigan versus Michigan Open Carry, Inc..

The library won an earlier case against the firearm advocacy organization last spring, but, as usual with rulings against gun carrying rights, it was swiftly appealed.

Schwartz writes that the library

bans all weapons “to the fullest extent permitted by law.” The question is, just how full is that extent? Michigan’s Firearm and Ammunition Act of 1990 says local units of government can’t pass laws and regulations on weapons.

Attorney Gary Bender, who represents the library, told WILX.com that authorities that govern library systems, like those that govern sporting arenas, water systems and other similar organizations, are not included in the Firearms Act. The circuit court agreed, issuing a declaratory judgment that the library’s weapons policy is valid, lawful and not preempted by state law. (The judge also entered a permanent injunction against openly carrying firearms into any CADL branch library or property.)

But Dean Greenblatt, attorney for Michigan Open Carry, disagreed with that interpretation. “The City of Lansing and County of Ingham have created a new entity,” Greenblatt argued. “(CADL is) a creation of two entities that could not themselves regulate firearms, and they created an authority that can,” the Lansing State Journal quoted Greenblatt as saying.

Currently forty-nine states have Concealed Carry laws on the books, ranging from states like Alaska, Wyoming and (unsurprisingly) Arizona which require no permit for concealed firearms to states like New York and Maryland which have “May-Issue” permits, meaning that applications for a license to carry concealed firearms are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Only Illinois and the District of Colombia currently ban the carrying of concealed firearms and those laws are, naturally, themselves the subject of various lawsuits.

Concealed weapons are uniformly banned from federal buildings, and some states also ban them from various other locations, such as schools, sports arenas, churches, bars or commuter systems. Additionally, many states, excluding Michigan, allow what are known as “opt-out” zones, in which business owners may post signs declaring concealed weapons banned on their premises, leaving booksellers and librarians in states like Kansas, Connecticut, Texas and Ohio an option beyond simply stacking all the thickest books in front of their cash-wrap counters. In other locations, however, like Florida, communities and businesses seeking to ban firearms on their own are now themselves subject to sanction from the state.

There may be another avenue for Michiganders who feel libraries full of children might not be the ideal location for a shoot-out. Schwartz writes

In the meantime, the Baldwin Public Library Board in Birmingham, MI, is taking another route to address the same dilemma. At its July 16 meeting, the board voted to send a letter to its state representatives asking the state legislature to add libraries to the list of places that are except from the open carry law, Director Doug Koschik told LJ. That list currently includes banks, places of worship, court, theaters, sports arenas, day care centers, hospitals, and bars. (According to the board theVillage Council of Beverly Hills, Baldwin’s largest contracting community, plans to adopt a resolution at its next meeting supporting the library board’s position as well.)

I conducted a very thorough and statistically useful survey of those Melville House staff from Britain and Australia, and in both cases they emphasized that not even pens are allowed in the British Library or the National Library in Canberra. Presumably if a pen (tactical or otherwise) is considered too dangerous for books and patrons, such institutions might frown on tools that use actual fiery explosions to function.

I leave to our readers then the two most important question in this debate, namely, where in Dewey is the best spot to duck and cover (personally I’d opt for either 616.02. or 739.75) and have you read our series of five novellas all titled The Duel?


Dustin Kurtz is the marketing manager of Melville House, and a former bookseller.