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The year is 2020, and many things as we know it have been turned upside down. The election next month is going to be a bumpy ride, but we still all need to do our part and vote.
If you’re planning on exercising your Second Amendment right while casting a vote this year, you’d better make sure you know your state’s laws regarding firearms at polling places. Although there is no federal law regulating firearms at polling places, there are a number of states that prohibit carrying a firearm where voting occurs. Some states prohibit you from packing in buildings used as polling places, some prohibit it on the entire property, some prohibit it within 25 feet of the property, while others prohibit it within 150 feet of the property.
Prohibitions against carrying firearms at polling places are not new. In fact, one of the earliest recorded firearm law cases relates to this specific subject. In 1889 Texas had a law (Pen. Code Art. 163) which prohibited firearms from being carried “within one-half mile of a polling or voting place on election day during the hours the polls are open”. A man by the name of Jim Barkley had just finished voting and “became involved in a difficulty near the polling place and was followed, and apparently attacked, by a crowd of persons, some of whom were armed with sticks or bludgeons.” Jim Barkley’s brother, who happened to be working across the street at the time, saw the attack in progress, and, as the case tells us “he armed himself with a pistol, which he kept in his place of business, and went hurriedly to the scene of the difficulty, and, in a peaceable manner, quelled the disturbance and returned immediately to his store.” Because Jim’s brother was within one-half mile of a polling place at the time, he was charged with violating the law. On appeal, however, the court ruled that the Texas law, “cannot be construed to deprive a person of the right of using arms to protect himself, or another, from death or serious bodily injury where the danger is immediate and imminent, and not merely prospective and probable.” Barkley v. State, 12 S.W. 495 (Tex. App. 1889)
Does your state allow you to pack heat while voting? Find out below.
NOTE: For this article we are limiting our focus to states that prohibit concealed carry at polling places. Open carry laws would require a more complex analysis. Also, some states have limited or no state preemption laws, which means local jurisdictions (cities and counties) might be able to enact additional restrictions not covered here. For a more in depth analysis download the Legal Heat app or pick up a copy of the Legal Heat book today.
The above red states have laws that prohibit the carrying of firearms (at least concealed) at a polling place.
States With Restrictions:
Arizona: Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-3102
- A person commits misconduct involving weapons by knowingly…Unless specifically authorized by law, entering an election polling place on the day of any election carrying a deadly weapon.
California: Cal. Elec. Code § 18544
- Any person in possession of a firearm or any uniformed peace officer, private guard, or security personnel or any person who is wearing a uniform of a peace officer, guard, or security personnel, who is stationed in the immediate vicinity of, or posted at, a polling place without written authorization of the appropriate city or county elections official is punishable by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), by imprisonment for 16 months or two or three years, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.
Florida: Fla. Stat. Ann. § 790.06 (12)
- A license issued under this section does not authorize any person to openly carry a handgun or carry a concealed weapon or firearm into…Any polling place;
Georgia: Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-127
- A person shall be guilty of carrying a weapon or long gun in an unauthorized location and punished as for a misdemeanor when he or she carries a weapon or long gun while…Within 150 feet of any polling place when elections are being conducted and such polling place is being used as a polling place
Louisiana: La. Stat. Ann. § 40:1379.3
- No concealed handgun may be carried into and no concealed handgun permit issued pursuant to this Section shall authorize or entitle a permittee to carry a concealed handgun in any of the following…A polling place.
- This year has seen some confusion in this state. An order was issued that stated you cannot open carry at a polling place. This order was later stayed by the court.
- There is no Michigan law that expressly permits the open carry of firearms. Rather, it is presumed to be legal anywhere it is not expressly prohibited. Those places include courthouses, hospitals, casinos and large sports arenas.
Mississippi: Miss. Code. Ann. § 45-9-101
- No license issued pursuant to this section shall authorize any person to carry a stun gun, concealed pistol or revolver into…any polling place
Missouri: Mo. Ann. Stat. § 571.107
- A concealed carry permit shall not authorize any person to carry concealed firearms…Within twenty-five feet of any polling place on any election day. Possession of a firearm in a vehicle on the premises of the polling place shall not be a criminal offense so long as the firearm is not removed from the vehicle or brandished while the vehicle is on the premises;
Nebraska: 272 Neb. Admin. Code Ch. 21, 018
- A permit holder may carry a concealed handgun anywhere except… A Polling place during a bona fide election;
South Carolina: S.C. Code Ann. § 23-31-215
- A permit issued pursuant to this section does not authorize a permit holder to carry a concealable weapon into a…polling place on election days;
Texas: Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 46.03
- A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possesses or goes with a firearm, location-restricted knife, club, or prohibited weapon… on the premises of a polling place on the day of an election or while early voting is in progress.
Washington D.C.: D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2509.07
- No person holding a license shall carry a pistol in the following locations or under the following circumstances…A polling place while voting is occurring
Get out and vote, and as always, be safe and be legal.
There are over 20,000 state, federal and municipal gun laws in America. Legal Heat specializes in helping you understand these laws through their in-person and online classes, books and mobile phone app. Legal Heat offers CCW classes nationwide, and also publishes the industry leading Legal Heat 50 State Guide to Firearm Laws and Regulations which can be downloaded on iTunes, GooglePlay and Kindle App stores. You can purchase the paperback version of the Legal Heat 50 State Guide or sign up for a class by visiting www.mylegalheat.com.
Phil Nelsen is a nationally recognized firearms law attorney, expert witness, college professor, author and co-founder of Legal Heat, the nation’s largest firearms training firm.