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Michigan Senate votes to ban guns from polling places

Megan Schellong

Michigan bills to restrict the presence of guns within 100 feet of a polling place passed the state Senate Thursday.

Current law only prohibits guns from voting locations in places where guns are already banned, like schools and places of worship.

State Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) chairs the Senate Elections and Ethics Committee. He said the bills aim to help voters and poll workers feel safer.

“This is a serious problem and tensions have been incredibly hot around elections and especially around elections here in the State of Michigan, and when you add firearms on to that equation it does make our election officials feel intimidated and it makes voters feel intimidated,” Moss told reporters after Thursday’s vote.

The bills mainly work to stop the open carry of firearms near polling locations and ballot drop boxes.

They make exceptions for security, law enforcement, people who live nearby and have guns at home, and people licensed for concealed carry.

“This is about somebody who is taking a firearm, demonstrating that they have it, showing it, and it adds one layer of intimidation,” Moss said.

Critics of the legislation, however, say the legislation goes too far.

“An individual who lawfully possesses a firearm could be charged with a crime under these bills for inadvertently walking within 100 feet of an absentee ballot drop box during any of the 40 days before an election in our state,” Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Holly) said during floor debate over the bills.

The bills would also keep guns from places where absentee ballots are being processed or counted. The only exception would be for uniformed law enforcement.

Johnson said she worries the bills could get people who are not trying to break the law in trouble.

“These bills would serve to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens in our state,” she said.

The legislation now goes back to the House of Representatives for that chamber to agree to some changes made in the Senate.

It’s unlikely there will be enough votes for that to happen in the House until April, after special elections fill two empty seats.

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