Are legally openly carried guns at the polls really voter suppression? Or is the banning of personal protection the real voter suppression?
On Friday October 17th, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson issued a directive that banned voters from openly carrying any firearm at the polls. This ban was not only aimed at long guns, but otherwise legally carried pistols as well.
Her response to issuing this directive was "about protecting the vote for all Michigan citizens who want to exercise their right to vote in person on November 3, 2020".
She went on to cite a few key events publicized in Michigan throughout the pandemic. Often, media took these events (and still-shot pictures from those events) out of proportion, spinning a perfect anti-gun narrative that we see manifested in the response provided to the Michigan Supreme Court on October 26th, 2020.
Here's my take on these events. Stick with me!
Notably, none of these events ever escalated beyond words. Not a single one of them evolved into physical violence on the side that was carrying firearms. People exercised their freedom of Free Speech and their Right to Bear Arms as found in the United States Constitution as well as Article 1 § 6 of the Michigan Constitution. People were angry their voices were being ignored and they were angry the capital and the governor were using power and authority they did not have. It has since been decided by the Michigan Supreme Court that the governor DID NOT , in fact, have the authority
The relationship of these events is relative to the gun ban at the polls, but I want to keep this article single issue. I do, however, encourage readers to go back and look at these events with a new perspective after reading this article.
Back to the main issue.
On October 21st, several state level firearm rights groups (listed below), along with Tom Lambert, joined together to file a lawsuit against the Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, the Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, and Director of the Michigan State Police Col. Joe Gasper.
Benson stated in her response (link below) " This ensures that when Michigan voters go to the polls, they have a refuge, free from fear and intimidation—whether they be a new citizen, a harried parent with small children in tow, a person with a history of gun violence, an 18-year-old first-time voter, or an elderly or disabled person who is
anxious about being able to flee from an active shooter."
First things first, does Benson not want a new citizen to know they have rights? Does she want to hide this right from them? Is this an attempt to sensitize them against the inalienable right to possess a tool to defend ourselves from violence? Is that not a pillar of this country's freedoms?
Is this voter suppression?
Let's talk about refuge.
Michigan ALREADY has voter intimidation laws in place that are enforced. Adding an open carry ban does nothing to increase that which is already there. The INTENT to intimidate voters is already against the law as seen here http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?mcl-750-222. We can look to the definition of brandishing, which IS a crime.
750.222(c) "Brandish" means to point, wave about, or display in a threatening manner with the intent to induce fear in another person.
People who are simply trying to cast their vote, while openly carrying a firearm, are ALREADY law abiding citizens. Anyone with a violent conviction is ALREADY barred from possession of a firearm.
Now let's talk about the harried parent.
Imagine being a 19 year old woman with a small child in a heavy crime area, for example Wayne County. She is not yet eligible to obtain a concealed pistol license, but IS eligible to privately purchase a firearm and OPENLY carry that firearm.
Now imagine her walk to the polls. Even though she has done NOTHING wrong, she must now do it UNARMED all the way from her home to the polls, with her child in tow, in a high crime area. If she wants to exercise her right to vote, her option to LEGALLY open carry a firearm has been stripped. This mother now must face the fears of human trafficking, assault, rape, and even murder. And her thoughts will include the possibility of all these things happening to her child as well.
Do you think this woman will go through that to vote?
Is this voter suppression?
A person with a history of gun violence.
This one really gets to me! As a firearms instructor, I ROUTINELY have human beings who have been traumatized by gun violence sitting in my classroom. They are there to take back some of the power that was stripped from them during a violent incident with a gun. They were vulnerable and were seeking training that would allow them to even the odds, should they ever face the end of an unlawful use of a firearm in the future.
These are men and women. I call them warriors who are brave as hell.
Benson seems to disregard their triumphs in their battle to be free from violence. She wants to remove the very tool they sought to conquer the feelings of absolute helplessness.
She is using them, without consent, as a tool to hold power over voters who MAY EVEN VOTE THE SAME WAY AS HER!
Unfortunately, many of these human beings are currently waiting unreasonable amounts of time simply to apply for their concealed pistol license. Many counties have very long wait times. Wayne county being the longest. Current appointments to apply for your CPL are out into July of 2021. That is NOT including the 45 day processing time that is allotted. Without a CPL, lawful open carry is their only option!
Is this voter suppression?
Let's talk about the disabled or elderly that cannot flee an active shooter.
Do laws stop shootings? Or are they carried out anyways, regardless of what a law says? It's no secret that most gun laws do NOTHING to stop bad people with bad intentions. In fact, they are harmful as the only people with the means to stop the carnage is...someone else with a firearm.
How do we protect those we have disarmed? Do we add police presence?
I would strongly argue that is voter suppression in and of itself. MANY people are not comfortable in police presence, as we can see all over every news channel in the country! Should these voters have to face that in order to cast a ballot?
Again, is this voter suppression?
Benson then goes on to say "And unlike Mr. Lambert—who can
simply leave his firearm in the car until he is done voting and whose need for self-protection is
greatly diminished by the fact that no other voter is permitted to open carry in or near the polls
on that day—these voters do not have a simple alternative.
Simply leave his firearm in the car...
This is a lot of no-go-at-the-polls to unpack.
Unholstering while seated in a vehicle poses problems in and of itself. It's not exactly the safest thing to be doing, and muzzle control is a challenge. The safest thing to do is get out of the car and unholster.
Or is it?
Picture being at a poll during one of the most heated times in our living history.
You see a man get out of his car and look around. Then you see him reach for his gun, and then he UNHOLSTERS IT!
He now has a loaded gun in his hand, with no explanation as to why for the onlooker or police officers to discern. And his face probably doesn't have the most pleasant look, as he's likely unhappy he is being forced to disarm.
Alarm bells anyone?
Had this been a church, he could've simply, and much more safely, uncovered by moving his shirt out of the way and carrying on about his business. As was his intention anyways.
Did I mention you cannot conceal carry in a church without permission from the presiding official? Open Carry with a CPL is your ONLY option if you are an ordinary person who is simply trying to exercise your civic duty and vote.
Don't believe me? Here's a link to the Attorney General's opinion.
AG Opinion 7097
AG Opinion 7113
And here's a link to the Michigan State Police Update.
Legal Update No 86
I hold a STRONG opinion that this unnecessarily puts an otherwise innocent and harmless voter in danger. Both of being unarmed at a poll when tension is high and while people have genuine fears of Republican AND Democrat rioters/protestors. It's a fact. And one we need to come to terms with for voting purposes.
There's another issue here.
Is this person's firearm SAFE in their vehicle while they are out of sight in a polling location? Does Benson plan on using our much needed tax dollars to hire parking lot security, simply to watch cars?
Yet again, is this voter suppression?
Benson further continues with "Voters who fear firearms might
actually lose their right to vote, contrary to established caselaw that recognizes a state’s interest in providing “an island of calm in which voters can peacefully contemplate their choices,” and "in creating a reasonable buffer zone so the voter is free from intimidation."
This right here. This is fireworks!
Can you honestly and reasonably claim that adding a firearm ban to election day, when there is ALREADY a voter intimidation ban, is not going to cause people to abandon voting?
Otherwise eligible, voting individuals who fear NOT having their firearm during a time when MANY people are already on edge due to the 6 month long pandemic? In the middle of an election in which violence and protests have surrounded? During a time when people are more divided than ever?
Is this an island of calm for these human beings that simply want to quietly VOTE and then GO HOME?
Is this a buffer zone for those who want to simply have the means to protect their own life, should a true threat of death/great bodily harm/sexual assault occur during their time on this peaceful island?
Has our Secretary of State and Attorney General lost touch with reality? Or do they only care about the fears of some, and not all?
Is this voter suppression?
Let me tell you what I see. I see a manifest of events put in place throughout covid by a state-level government that is off the rails and completely bypassing legislature. I feel as if this Secretary of State Open Carry gun ban was bait for the gun groups.
I see story after story being shoved out by media. I see narratives spun, one-by-one. I see a government exploiting voters through knowledge and information denied to them through media and the use of emotional warfare.
I see a government grabbing easy, low-hanging fruit to push gun control bit by bit. Making people "OK" with it by moving the bar a tiny bit at a time.
No matter what party we identify with or don't identify with, our voices are being manipulated.
There's a seed inside the response to the courts given yesterday morning. An Easter egg, if you will.
A big nasty one.
On page 16 of this document, it reads:
"Tellingly, the US Supreme Court has never recognized a right to bear arms that extends outside the home. It has, nevertheless, recognized the government's power to restrict 'the carry of firearms in sensitive places'."
Furthermore, on page 15, it is quoted from DC vs Heller "The US Supreme Court has held that it guarantees 'the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of HEARTH AND HOME'".
This does not seem like a ONE DAY ban on the open carry of firearms to vote. This reads like its long-game is far worse. And our current government has NOT been quiet about coming after our rights. Any of them. This pandemic has only emboldened them.
What happens when state government wants to ban not only open carry, but all firearms on holidays. How about if the state decides you can no longer have a firearm in your vehicle to better keep officers safe? What if state officials decide you shouldn't be allowed to have your firearm outside of your home?
This is a very slippery slope, where a large portion of us get complacent and fail to think beyond what is in front of us, what directly impacts us. A failure to take into account the whole picture and ALL individuals these bans will affect. There is also the potential here for the window of what is "acceptable" to be pushed so far that we don't bat an eye at a ban that is wholly destructive to our rights in general. Rights that we may never get back. What about the massive majority of the 8 million people in this state who have NO ILL INTENTIONS. How do we truly protect life by being okay with restricting the best tool a person has to protect it?
We have got to slow down.
We have got to stop being okay with things.
What does not affect you today, may very well affect you in the future. Your children"s or grandchildren's future.
We have got to stop just being "okay" with a false sense of safety and confidence!
We have got to STOP being stuck in the box.
WE must stop allowing ourselves to be divided.
We need to love and protect one another, and we need to fight for ALL of our rights before it's too late.
Gun Right Groups involved in the case:
Michigan Open Carry, Inc
Michigan Gun Owners
Michigan Coalition For Responsible Gun Owners
PDF Downloads Related to Voting Gun Ban
October 22nd, 2020
Plaintiff's Complaint with Exhibits
Motion for Emergency Injunction
October 23rd, 2020
Court Order Regarding Briefing for Plaintiff's Motion for Declatory and Emergency Injunctive Relief
October 26th, 2020
State Defendant's Response
October 27th, 2020
Oral arguments will be heard at 2:30 pm on October 27th. They can be viewed here.
October 27th, 2020
Christie Bass is a wife and mother of 3 children. She is a USCCA Firearms instructor and Training Counselor dedicated to empowering all human beings and helping them to realize just how valuable they truly are. She is adamant that we take all steps necessary to teach individuals how to keep themselves free from violence and believes human life holds the highest value.