Feb 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Guns in statehouses in the spotlight after armed protests

 Two men with their firearms listen to speakers at a protest to new gun legislation at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah on February 8, 2020.

A pro-guns protest at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City in February 2020. Photo: George Frey/AFP via Getty Images

Guns are now allowed in statehouses "in some form" in 21 states, after Montana this week signed a law allowing anyone with a permit to bring a concealed firearm into the state Capitol, AP reports.

Why it matters: The issue of guns in legislatures has come to the fore in the past year, following armed protests outside state capitols and the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol.

  • While Democratic lawmakers are pushing to implement or strengthen bans on firearms, Republicans have been moving to protect the right to carry guns in statehouses.

The big picture: "Eight states allow only concealed firearms inside their capitols, while two states allow only open carry," a review by AP found.

  • Montana's gun law was signed Thursday despite the statehouse not having metal detectors. The Republican-dominated Utah legislature, which passed a law this month dropping a permit requirement for the carrying of concealed firearms in the state capitol, also doesn't have them, AP notes.
  • Montana Republican state Rep. Seth Berglee told AP the U.S. Capitol insurrection didn't change his mind about the bill he was sponsoring as people with gun permits "are extremely law-abiding" and he saw the law as a "deterrent to bad things happening."

The other side: The Michigan Capitol Commission banned the open carry of firearms inside the statehouse six days after the U.S. Capitol insurrection, though Democrats said the move didn't go far enough.

  • In Vermont, senators are weighing a plan to strengthen a ban on firearms in the statehouse to other government buildings, the Bennington Banner reports.
  • The Washington State Senate Rules Committee is considering outlawing the open carry of guns in the statehouse and near authorized demonstrations after state lawmakers passed the measure along party lines last month, per K5.

Go deeper: House votes to fine lawmakers who don't comply with metal detectors

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