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Report warns guns could have ‘intimidating effect’ in 2024 election

A line of three armed militia members walking along a paved walkway while a police officer is standing to the left of them.
Bert Johnson
Members of the Battle Born Patriots militia group at a political rally in Carson City, Nev., on Oct. 24, 2020. Nevada’s open-carry gun laws allow residents to display firearms in public without a permit.

The interest of public safety outweighs an individual’s right to be armed at an election site, according to Allison Anderman, senior counsel with the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and coauthor of a new report focused on protecting elections from the threat of armed political extremism.

“Whether or not someone intends to intimidate with a firearm, it can have an intimidating effect, especially when a person is voting or counting ballots,” Anderman said.

The report, released in partnership with the Brennan Center for Justice, warns that public officials must confront a range of potential threats as the 2024 election approaches. These include a surge in gun ownership, political violence, and a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision limiting states’ ability to restrict firearms in public spaces.

“It is this confluence of factors that is creating conditions that are ripe for violence,” Anderman said. “The 2024 presidential election will bring with it some really unique challenges.”

The report comes on the heels of another release by the Brennan Center, which outlined steps states could take to protect the electoral process. Experts said, compared to other swing states, Nevada was “doing a lot right.” But they identified Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo’s decision to veto a bill that would have prohibited guns at polling locations as a missed opportunity.

According to the Giffords Law Center, just 12 states and the District of Columbia prohibit guns in polling places. Anderman said that threatens the constitutional right to vote.

“It is reasonable for someone to see a person openly carrying a firearm and be worried,” she explained. “Is this person the next mass shooter?”

During the last election, local and federal law enforcement expressed concern over reports that people carrying weapons were watching Arizona ballot drop-off locations. Following the 2020 election, a group of armed protestors went to the home of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Emboldened by a disinformation campaign seeking to delegitimize President Joe Biden’s victory, they insisted Benson overturn legitimate election results.

But Anderman believes that most citizens who want to vote will continue to exercise their rights. She also pointed out that voter intimidation is prohibited by federal law.

“Elections have overwhelmingly been secure and safe, and people should feel safe going to the polls,” she said.

Bert is KUNR’s senior correspondent. He covers stories that resonate across Nevada and the region, with a focus on environment, political extremism and Indigenous communities.
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