By Tom Travis
Update – since publication the Mayor’s office has issued a statement clarifying the location of the 67th District Court within City Hall. The statement is located at the end of this article. ~ Editor
Monday afternoon Mayor Sheldon Neeley declared City Hall “A Gun Free Zone.” At the front entrance a sign posted just outside the front door announced City Hall as a “Gun Free Zone.” In the lobby, two armed and bullet-proof-vested Flint police officers stood by stanchions with rope between them and a metal detector. Everyone coming into City Hall had to empty their pockets and have their bags scanned and searched.
EVM asked the officers if someone tried to get into City Hall with a gun what would they do. The officers said they’d ask them to take their gun to their car then they could enter. EVM noted to the officers that Councilperson Judy Priestley (Ward 4) was open carrying her hand gun. It was strapped to her hip with a black harness. One officer replied, “We know. But our captain said that was okay.”
EVM asked Priestley how she got in the building with her gun strapped to her side. Priestley said she didn’t come in through the front door. She told EVM the officers in council chambers have seen her wearing it and have said nothing to her.
In a statement announcing the action, the Mayor explained that City Hall is now a gun-free zone because Genesee County District Court No. 67 has decided to move some of their case hearings into City Hall. According to state mandate, courthouses along with schools, jails, and prisons are gun-free zones. EVM has attempted to contact the 67th District Court; so far, no one has responded.
EVM reached out to the Mayor inquiring where in City Hall the Court will be holding hearings and when hearings will begin. At publication, the Mayor has not responded. Additionally, EVM has reached out to Police Chief Terrence Green and the Mayor asking if Councilperson Priestley and any other council members who carry guns, will be in violation and/or be allowed to carry guns in the future. Neither has responded to EVM as of publication.
Update – The Mayor’s office emailed the following statement to EVM Tuesday afternoon:
Statement from the City of Flint administration:
Council members are not in violation of the local administrative order, which includes a provision for authorized exceptions. The City of Flint is working through the process of authorizing elected city officials to carry weapons.
The 67th District Court will use the Administrative Hearings Bureau space, where “blight court” is currently conducted. This is located on the basement level of City Hall. We will be allocating additional space to the 67th District Court as well, but this space is immediately available to them.
The 67th District Court will help facilitate the City of Flint’s Administrative Hearings Bureau, sometimes called “blight court,” which is an important tool for fighting blight in our city. We are working with the 67th District Court to schedule hearings at Flint City Hall, and we expect them to commence in a matter of weeks.
Flint City Hall now joins the ranks of public schools, hospitals, airports, and businesses that designate their locations as gun-free zones. The January 6 insurrection showed us the dangers of what happens when armed people threaten the work of government. We saw that threats can turn to violence at a moment’s notice. The City of Flint is still under the declaration of a gun violence emergency, allowing us to bring more resources to push back against the devastating consequences of gun violence.
EVM Editor Tom Travis can be reached at email@example.com