There is no federal law prohibiting firearms at polling sites. Instead, regulation is left to the states, a large majority of which allow guns to be carried in and around a polling place — unless it’s in a setting, like a school, that already bans guns. Only six states (Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas) and the District of Columbia explicitly prohibit guns at the polls. Four more states (Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Carolina) prohibit concealed firearms at the polls but allow at least some open carry.
Some states have regulations that could have the effect of exacerbating tensions at voting sites. In South Carolina, openly carrying a handgun into a polling place (and polling booth) is illegal — yet you are permitted to bring a rifle or other “long gun.” And in Pennsylvania, voters can bring a handgun or a rifle with them to vote, while state law mandates that police stay 100 feet from the polling booths, thereby increasing response times to any violent incident and reducing the sense of safety for many of those contemplating voting in person.
So where does this leave us? Even where guns are allowed, intimidating people is illegal. It will be up to local law enforcement and the people who run each polling station to keep an eye out for that. Let’s hope that cool heads prevail.
Aron Solomon is senior digital strategist for Next Level, a digital marketing firm for lawyers, and an adjunct professor in the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University in Montreal.