Just eight days before the election, Michigan police chiefs say they are uncertain whether they can legally enforce a gun ban at the polls.
Earlier this month, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced a ban on the open carry of firearms at polling locations.
The administrative order now faces legal challenges and several state police organizations say they’re unsure if it can be enforced.
Robert Stevenson is the Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.
“The chiefs aren’t saying we won’t enforce it, the chiefs are saying we don’t see how we can enforce it,” he said. “That’s exactly the direction we’ve gotten from county prosecutors.”
Stevenson said it’s important to be clear that police aren’t taking a position on the order.
“We’re interested in following the law, whatever the law is,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of hate mail accusing us of supporting militias or white supremacists and wanting guns at the polls. That’s untrue. We just want clear law we can follow and right now it’s not there.”
While it’s unclear whether police can enforce a gun ban Stevenson said voter intimidation laws are much more clear and will be enforced.
“Two or three people open carrying are standing outside the polls, maybe they’re blocking the polls, maybe they’re blocking the entrance somewhat or making people walk around them. Walking through them. Yelling at them. That could be considered intimidation,” he said.
Matt Saxton is the Executive Director of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association. He said open carry at polling locations hasn’t been an issue in the past.
“The concern is that this order may in fact cause more people to carry at a polling place,” he said. “We hope that doesn’t happen, everyone needs to feel safe while they are at a polling place.”
Saxton said he’s “no fan” of the open carrying of firearms.
“But it is legal and law enforcement can only enforce the laws of the state of Michigan,” he said. “Sheriffs will and are working hard to ensure everyone can vote next Tuesday safely.”
Attorney General Dana Nessel said her office will be standing by on election day to help law enforcement answer any questions about whether something amounts to voter intimidations.
“If we see any activities that are voter suppression oriented where people are trying to scare people at the polls that’s a felony in our state,” she said. “Law enforcement has a direct line to our office so we can assist in any legal decisions.”
The Attorney General said voters can also reach out to her office directly if they have any concerns about voter intimidation. That number is 517-335-7659.
“Have this number with you if you see anything at all that makes you uncomfortable,” she said. “Call us, let us know, we will make sure that someone from law enforcement gets on it immediately.”
A resolution to the legal challenges against the gun ban are expected later this week.