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Michigan lawmaker expects lawsuit over ban on open-carry firearms at polls

 State Representative Beau LaFave open carries during the 2020 State of the State address in Lansing on Wednesday, January 29. (Facebook Image from Beau LaFave)
State Representative Beau LaFave open carries during the 2020 State of the State address in Lansing on Wednesday, January 29. (Facebook Image from Beau LaFave) (WLUC)
Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 7:25 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - An outspoken supporter for firearms offered sharp criticism of a directive from Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson that bans openly carrying firearms at polling locations on Nov. 3.

Republican State Rep. Beau LaFave of Iron Mountain said he expects a lawsuit will be filed against Benson to overturn the directive. He accused Benson of “fearmongering to suppress voters” and prevent people from exercising their Second Amendment rights.

“The right to vote and the right to keep and bear arms are not mutually exclusive. No voter should be forced to choose between these fundamental principles,” LaFave said in a statement Friday afternoon. “There’s no way her ban passes constitutional muster.”

Benson sent a communication to local clerks around the state on Friday morning clarifying that openly-carried firearms are not allowed in polling locations. The same ban also remains in effect for clerk’s office and absent voter counting boards on Election Day.

She said openly-carried firearms “may cause disruption, fear, or intimidation for voters, election workers, and others present.”

LaFave conceded that some polling locations housed in churches and schools already can ban guns with some limited exceptions under established Michigan law. But he believes “unilateral action by the executive branch” is unlawful and unenforceable.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s spokesman issued a clarification to ABC12 on Friday indicating that she reviewed Benson’s directive before it was announced and she believes it is legal.

“Our office has researched the issue and we’re confident in the advice provided to the secretary,” said Ryan Jarvi, press secretary for the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.

Here is the full text of LaFave’s statement on the open carry ban:

"It doesn’t surprise me one bit that the Secretary of State is playing these cheap political games. The idea that she must prevent people from exercising their Second Amendment rights for our elections to be safe and secure is absolutely false. Secretary Benson is fearmongering to suppress voters, and it’s appalling.

"While some polling locations like churches and schools are already ‘pistol-free’ zones under state statute, with limited exceptions, any unilateral action by the executive branch, Secretary of State or Attorney General banning firearms in other polling places is unlawful, unenforceable and a violation of citizens' voting rights and their right to self-defense.

“The right to vote and the right to keep and bear arms are not mutually exclusive. No voter should be forced to choose between these fundamental principles. There’s no way her ban passes constitutional muster. I have no doubt a lawsuit will be forthcoming. Just like the governor’s orders were deemed unconstitutional last week, the Secretary of State will soon lose her day in court.”

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