Bill wants to ban guns at polling places

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

If you’re someone who carries a gun on a daily basis–in other words, most of us–you probably don’t go many places you can’t take guns. I mean, restaurant choices, some grocery stores, and other places that expressly say your firearm isn’t welcome are also saying you’re not welcome.

Other places are a matter of law. You can’t take a gun into a courthouse in most places, for example, so that limits how often you may go and take care of personal business.

Well, it seems there’s a proposed bill that would keep you from carrying in a polling place on election day.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., is introducing legislation on Wednesday that would make it illegal to possess a firearm within 100 yards of any federal election site as instances of intimidation against voters and poll workers grow.

The proposal by Murphy, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and six other Democratic senators seeks to protect those casting and counting ballots. It levies increased penalties for those in violation of bringing a gun near those locations. Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., has a companion bill to prevent armed voter intimidation that he introduced in the House last year.

The Vote Without Fear Act comes months after Murphy’s work on bipartisan gun safety legislation that passed Congress for the first time in nearly three decades. But lawmakers have limited time left in the year to vote, and it is unclear how much support the bill would garner from Senate Republicans. If all Democrats are behind it, they would need at least 10 Republicans in support to clear a divided 50-50 Senate.

“Free and fair elections cannot happen … in the face of armed intimidation at the polls, but that’s become a disturbing reality for some Americans, as extremists driven by conspiracy theories about voter fraud are increasingly showing up to polling places with guns,” Murphy said. “This legislation will ensure voters and election workers continue to feel safe participating in the democratic process.”

First, I’ll note that neither Murphy, Blumenthal, nor any of their buddies were worried about voter intimidation in 2008.

Second, it’s a secret ballot. People can vote however they want without fear of reprisal.

Look, the truth is that many polling places are already off-limits for carrying guns in the first place. Schools, for example, are often voting precincts and are generally off-limits for guns even without a bill like this.

But even if the site isn’t off-limits, this is a bill without a purpose.

See, while they’re framing it as an anti-intimidation law, what it really does is tell law-abiding citizens they have to pick one of their rights over the other. They can either vote or carry their firearm. They’re not allowed to do both, even when the precinct isn’t a “sensitive” location.

The good news is that this bill isn’t actually going to see the light of day.

With the Senate currently split so evenly, there’s really no way that particular bill is going to get a vote, much less passage.