Last week, video surfaced of Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey calling the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 a hoax and espousing several conspiracy theories about the day, including that it was pre-arranged and that Trump supporters were not responsible. After releasing an apology on Tuesday for his comments, audio surfaced on Wednesday of Shirkey saying he didn’t “take back any of the points I was trying to make.”
In addition to these comments shifting blame and questioning the legitimacy of the violent insurrection that left five people dead, Shirkey has been friendly to and encouraging of extremists in Michigan.
According to the New York Times, shortly after the Statehouse protest in April in which extremists showed up to the state Capitol carrying assault-style firearms, Confederate flags, and nooses to intimidate lawmakers, Shirkey “appeared at a rally by the same organizers, onstage with a militia member who would later be accused of conspiring to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.” He reportedly told the militiamen to “stand up and test that assertion of authority by the government…. We need you now more than ever.”
Shirkey’s comments and actions are a chilling reminder of how our leaders’ rhetoric can enable and encourage violence. Due in large part to rhetoric from President Trump and decades of fear mongering from gun lobby groups like the NRA, extreme right-wing intimidation and violence has been on the rise in recent years, leading to at least 85 instances of armed intimidation and incidents involving guns at protests in state capitals from May through December 2020, alone — including multiple incidents in Michigan that preceded a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. A report by Everytown in September warned of this violence and examined the toxic mix of conspiracy theories, the common denominator of guns, and far-right extremism in America.
Following a year of armed intimidation at the Michigan Capitol, Moms Demand Action called for the regulation of guns at the Capitol. In January, the Capitol Commission voted to prohibit open carry in the Michigan Capitol and shortly after, lawmakers introduced Senate bills 34 and 35 and corresponding House bills 4023 and 4024. Both pairs of bills would prohibit both concealed and open carry of firearms on Capitol premises.