Amnesty International calls on governors to ban guns at polling sites
Human rights advocacy group Amnesty International USA on Wednesday launched a new campaign calling on the nation’s governors to ban guns at and around polling places saying that the weapons could be used to intimidate Black and Hispanic voters.
Most jurisdictions have laws limiting armed law enforcement from within 100 feet of voting booths but lack laws regarding private citizens around polling places, according to Amnesty.
The move comes as President Trump has faced criticism for calling for his supporters to go to polls and “watch very carefully” while speaking at last week’s presidential debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
The group joins a number of other election officials and voting rights experts who have sounded the alarm over Trump’s rhetoric.
“The widespread presence of guns at polling places, or armed groups aiming to intimidate voters, is a grave threat to the rights of all people to life, health, and security, and to participate in the political process free from discrimination and violence,” Ernest Coverson, manager of the End Gun Violence Campaign, said in the Amnesty statement.
If the president’s supporters heed his request, there are a number of laws that they could be violating, including a 19th century law designed to counter voter suppression tactics used by the KKK. Other laws to prevent intimidation at the polls include the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.
In its statement, Amnesty pointed to the rising number of firearms sales in the U.S., elevated risks due to the coronavirus pandemic and what they called plans by some to “recruit tens of thousands of partisan election monitors” as reasons to be concerned for voter safety.
Trump and a number of his supporters have refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if the president were to lose on Nov. 3.
Michael Caputo, the former spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, last month encouraged Trump supporters to arm themselves before the election.