Can You Bring A Gun To Vote? Your State Might Have Firm Rules
Many voters have gotten the message loud and clear that, no, it's not a good idea to bring your selfie stick with you to the polls this election day. But what about your gun, should you own one? Well, it depends. There is no blanket policy for the entire country. Rather, rules and regulations, where there are any at all, are decided by different states and municipalities. Gun policy nonprofit Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence reports that only six states have an outright ban on firearms in polling centers — Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.
However, this doesn't mean that election day gun-toting is fair game outside of these states. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, you can bring your gun to the polls in Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, and South Carolina, just as long as it is not concealed. And CNN reports that while states such as Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia do allow carrying unconcealed firearms in public, that permission does not extend to polling places held at schools and government buildings with firearm bans in place.
While public safety is always a concern when discussing where guns can and cannot be carried, voter intimidation is the hot button issue of this election. Claiming the election is "rigged," presidential candidate Donald Trump has repeatedly called on his supporters to stake out polling places to discourage and possibly catch any attempts at voter fraud. At least one supporter has taken him up on his request with a gun in hand.
The Huffington Post reports that on Nov. 4, a Trump shirt-wearing man carrying a gun stood outside a polling place in Loudon County, Virginia as voters came in and out casting their in-person absentee ballots. And though he was respecting a rule that canvassers must stand at least 40 feet away from the polling place's entrance, the man still managed to stand in the way of one voter who told the Huffington Post, "I felt intimidated."
According to Virginia law, the man's actions were completely legal. However, while federal voter intimidation law doesn't specifically mention firearms, any action that "attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose" are explicitly banned and punishable by a fine and/or up to a year in prison.
Voter intimidation aside, if you're considering carrying a gun while casting your ballot it's always best to check out your state and local laws, as well as the rules governing that particular location, before leaving home with your firearm. And if you have any lingering doubt as to the legality of your weapon in the polling place, heed the words of Bill Joe's mother and "Don't take your guns to town, son, leave your guns at home."