Whitmer Says Democracy Is Undermined When Legislators Have To Wear Bullet Proof Vests


(WWJ) Another protest is reportedly planned for the Capitol in Lansing Thursday, which hasn't recovered from the drama of the last protest that brought people with semi-automatic weapons, rage-filled chants and alleged threats against legislators.

So, will the next protest be gun free? Gov. Gretchen Whitmer weighed in on that while speaking live with WWJ 950 on Tuesday while also addressing whether gambling could return in the form of online-only, why the state remains closed while most of the deaths are in nursing homes, and more.

On the guns front, the Michigan State Capitol Commission voted Monday afternoon to set up a committee to study the issue, which effectively shut down an immediate decision. The call for committee was made despite an opinion from Attorney General Dana Nessel that said the commission has the legal authority to prohibit firearms in the State Capitol, and should do so right away.

They chose not to do that. The entire situation is something that Whitmer told WWJ's Roberta Jasina and Tom Jordan, "just really boggles the mind."

She added, though, that any ban on weapons is the purview of the Capitol Commission, not hers, and they chose not to act, "ironically because they were getting threats." The legislators could move legislation banning weapons, Whitmer said, and she hopes they take that path.

Whitmer added she knows there were a lot of legislators who felt intimidated by the guns in the Capitol, some even felt in fear for their lives.

"When we've got legislators there being the voice tens of thousands of people they represent wearing bullet-proof vests because they're afraid it means that our democracy is undermined and that's precisely why I really think that this action is merited, and I hope the legislature takes it," she said.

Previously, she called on Republicans to denounce threats of violence against legislators, and she told WWJ it's incumbent on everyone with a voice to use it to "bring down the heat."

"We certainly can have our differences in policy and I know not everyone has agreed with the actions that I've had to take, despite the fact the vast majority of those in Michigan are going the right thing and polling might lead you to believe they understand why these actions were important. But I know it's not unanimous. I also know this: Resorting to threats of physical violence is abhorrent and it's important that every person with a platform not just put out a tweet but implore organizers of these groups to stop, to take it upon themselves to education to do everything they can to stop this from escalating."

Facing down the rage from some segments of the population over stay at home orders, Whitmer said the state is figuring out what to do about casinos, which bring entertainment and millions of dollars of revenue to local governments, including Detroit.

"We're looking at every way we can mitigate the risk inherent in activities that are uniquely social, uniquely public that often have people touching the same apparatus or machines. Casinos do pose an inherent high risk in a time of COVID-19 where where you can be carrying this disease and be completely asymptomatic, affecting tens of people in a day and thousands of people in days,' Whitmer said, adding, "The potential for online, we've taken steps as a state, we've taken strides in that regard. But it's something we'll continue to look how we can improve on that and make that available.

But it's not as easy as just declaring a free-for-all for online gaming. "Every decision has all sorts of impacts. A decision on that front would impact our native American tribes, that's just one of the multitude of considerations that go into this discussion around gaming."

Beyond the dangers of casino, bars, concerts, and other public places, nursing homes are ground zero for coronavirus spread and resulting deaths -- so should there be a more targeted approach rather than shutting down the entire state?

"We've had vast community spread around metro Detroit and that's what led to the high number of cases and also the high number of deaths," Whitmer said. "

Nursing homes present a unique risk, the governor added, and there's no question we have to be vigilant about our testing and monitoring into the future, long-term.

But in the early days of the virus it was critical to stop everything to "get our arms around the community spread."

The fact that Michigan shut everything down is why sectors of the economy are able to re-engage right now, she said. But to reopen further involves baby steps to avoid a second, overwhelming spread of infection and deaths.

"We've got to be really smart about this," Whitmer said. "In 1918, the flu pandemic, you can look at cities across the nation that dropped social distancing and saw a second spike that was more economically devastating than the first ... and that's what we need to avoid at all costs."