Home News Grand Rapids wrestles with gun control legalities as Washington D.C. debates

Grand Rapids wrestles with gun control legalities as Washington D.C. debates


Since the tragic Newtown school shooting in December, debates have started across the country about how we can avoid the next massacre. Everyone seems to believe that some action is necessary, but no one can agree on how it should be carried out.

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell asked President Obama to take action in a speech delivered days after the Sandy Hook shooting.

“He can start by reinstating the ban on assault weapons lifted by his predecessor,” Heartwell said.

Obama began to do just that, as well as push several other reforms and 23 executive orders designed to aid laws and preventative measures already in place.

Shortly after, however, the debate started in Grand Rapids when members of a gun rights activist group arrived for a city commission meeting wearing pistols on their belts.

While this is in direct violation of a local ordinance, Phillip Hofmeister, President of Michigan Open Carry, was allowed to speak. He argued that the ordinance was in direct violation of a state law that precluded local governments from making laws pertaining to, among other things, the transportation or possession of a firearm.

“The most effective thing to keep people safe is to let the good people have guns also,” Hofmeister said in a phone interview.

Heartwell disagrees.

“In a world where polluting the air can be called the Clear Skies Act, it should be no great shock that some would argue that carrying more guns somehow makes us all safer,” Heartwell said in his speech on Dec. 18.

Now Heartwell has formed a coalition for gun control.

“My objective is to remove guns from government buildings and voting stations and to keep them out of the places where they are currently banned, such as schools and houses of worship,” Heartwell stated in a letter to another MOC member who offered to join his coalition shortly after he announced its organization. “Given your clear and strongly held position on this matter, I must decline your offer of service.”

MOC has not been deterred by Heartwell’s stance.

“These bans really don’t work,” Hofmeister said. “If you look at the past decade, all of the mass shootings with the exception of one, the Gabby Giffords incident, have occurred in pistol free zones. Historically, across the country, these are killing zones.”

Members of MOC have pledged to continue attending city commission meetings with pistols on their hips, but Heartwell has said he is not interested in finding a compromise and is taking his coalition to Lansing to push for a statewide ban.

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  1. Why should citizens respect state law when the mayor of Grand Rapids doesn’t? I think it is time for a new mayor who respects the law!

  2. Obamas predesessor did not lift the ban on weapons. the Brady bill was not extended because none of the sought after affects happened. it was simply useless legislation and therefor allowed to end.

  3. How can Obama justify Banning “Assault Weapons” on Lawful citizens , when he and his Admin has been Arming Drug Cartels (in Collusion with Hamas and Hezbollah) ,Gangs , and Libyan and Syrian Terrorist affiates

  4. Joshua Vissers, let me give you a nickles worth of free advice. There are several issues that you will find that drives emotion from readers more than others. 1. Abortion 2. Firearms and 3 War. While for sure this is not the complete list, but you can bet they will be on or near the top. In my younger days, I always though Journalists were suppose to be objective. But it has become increasingly obviousness, their objectiveness is defined by who they work or write for. What I find objectionable about your article is you make direct notice that Mr. Hofmesiter is “in direct violation of a local ordinance” yet you do not make the same charge against Mayor Hartwell who has said on many public venues he knows he know GR laws are in direct conflict with Michigan Law and that they can not be enforced and yet he does not care, I think that is more of a story…..why a Mayor who raised his hands to take the oath of office who swore to upholds the laws and the constitution of both the State of Michigan as well as the United States, REFUSES to. IMO A politician could cares more about his own agenda and less about the law does not deserve to be in office. Mayor Hartwell has “formed a collation for gun control” Does it not strike you as “interesting” that he has no desire to hear the other side of the issue. How is his office going to come to some type of a “compromise” with those on the other side, if he is unwilling to listen to their point, he cant, and where I come from, which by the way is Michigan, we call that COMMUNISM. I hope in your “Second” semester, you will research all aspects of the issue before publishing such an elliptical one sided story. As a reader, if I was unaware of the “real” issues surrounding this story, I would have come away with a totally different and skewed view of the facts. It a darn good thing I get my information from other sources than just you!

    • “He argued that the ordinance was in direct violation of a state law that precluded local governments from making laws pertaining to, among other things, the transportation or possession of a firearm.”

      ‘He’ being Mr. Hofmeister. I was trying to make the organization’s position clear, as opposed to my own. My time and space for this article were limited, so I had to summarise as best I could. I’ll be writing more articles on this topic, and I’ll continue to send links to Mr. Hofmeister.

      • I am Secretary of Michigan Open Carry, I work with Phil on Open Carry matters. I understand you are limited in space, but your article to those who don’t know makes it look like those who were exercising their god given rights were in the wrong, when in fact, its the mayor who was and still is wrong, that is where your article should have been pointed. That’s all we were saying and the Mayor in true fashion to his one sided views refused to listen to those who employ him. His job is not to twist the laws to his position like it or not, its his job to uphold it. I keep reading articles about events like the one Phil was at and its always pointed as if those exercising their rights were violating the law or pushing the issue, now about writing about how the Mayor is purposely confusing uninformed citizens, by keeping laws on the books that he has clearly stated on several public venues he has not intention of removing. I wonder how many other laws are on the books that are only there to confuse otherwise law abiding citizens…..to me that is more criminal then the law abiding citizens who have jumped through hoops to purchase and register their firearms in order to exercise a “right”. Thanks for your time

        • I’m only trying to report what has been happening, not form an opinion or push anyone’s agenda. Unfortunately, I had to summarize months worth of events in a small space. I’m aware of the issue surrounding the legislation, and will be monitoring the story as it develops more. I look forward to maintaining contact with your organization in the future to make sure everyone is represented. Please remember, I went out of my way to contact both the Mayor’s office and Phil. I’m interested in writing the most balanced and informed articles possible. I’ve read much of the publication on your website, as well as the resources that have been linked to. If you have further resources for me to view, please feel free to forward them to me.


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