A solution in search of a problem is making headway in the Virginia legislature, where a Democrat-controlled committee on Wednesday approved a ban on lawfully carried firearms within 40 feet of polling sites, electoral board meetings and all places where ballots are being counted.
The bill’s sponsor, Del. Mark Levine, was also the author of last year’s legislation to ban the sale and possession of modern sporting rifles, “high capacity” magazines, and suppressors, and is one of those lawmakers who’s never met a gun control bill he didn’t like. When it comes to his bill establishing “gun-free zones” around polls and other election-related locations, Levine claims the change is desperately needed.
“It’s all about protecting our democracy and the right of folks to vote without intimidation,” Levine said. “It’s also very important to protect the election officials inside.”
People should be able to vote without intimidation, but someone exercising their constitutional right to keep and bear arms isn’t and shouldn’t automatically be considered intimidating. I also agree that election officials, like the rest of us, deserve protection, but gun-free zones offer only the illusion of safety.
Opponents of the bill pointed out that guns are already banned in schools buildings and places of worship, which make up a large portion of polling locations across the Commonwealth.
National Rifle Association Virginia Director Daniel Spiker said localities also have the option to expand the prohibition under a new state law. Last year, the General Assembly granted cities and counties the authority to restrict firearms in places used for government business through a local ordinance.
“We view this as superfluous,” Spiker said…
Spiker said, at the very least, individuals with concealed carry permits should be able to maintain their privileges in these spaces.
“There is no intimidation factor when you don’t know if an individual is concealed carrying or not,” Spiker said.
As Spiker made clear, this bill isn’t about intimidation. It’s about banning guns. Threatening someone with violence is already a crime in Virginia, but simply carrying a firearm should not be.
In addition to trying to ban the lawful carrying firearms near election locations, Del. Levine is also sponsoring legislation that would ban all firearms at the state capitol building and other state-owned property, including the Capitol Square where citizens gather to support or oppose legislation on a regular basis. The anti-gun Democrat hasn’t introduced his sweeping gun, magazine, and suppressor ban this session, but the carry ban bills that he’s pushing in its place would still infringe on the right to keep and bear arms.
The proposed ban on carrying around election sites is now headed to the House floor, where passage is likely. The state Senate may prove to be a tougher environment for the legislation, but gun owners across the Commonwealth should be contacting their delegates and senators now to urge them to reject this misguided and ineffective effort to ensure public safety.