Oct 27, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Judge overturns ban on open carry of guns at Michigan polling places

People carrying firearms at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan, on Oct. 17.

People carrying firearms at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan, on Oct. 17. Photo: Jeff Kowalsky /AFP via Getty Images

Judge Christopher Murray on Tuesday reversed a directive by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson that banned the open carry of firearms at or near polling places or absentee counting boards on Election Day.

Why it matters: Benson said the rule was intended to curb the possibility of voter intimidation or harassment on Nov. 3 Meanwhile, the state's Attorney General Dana Nessel argued the necessity for the directive has grown since an alleged plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was revealed, according to the Detroit News.

What they're saying: Murray wrote that the edict violated the state law that governs how new rules are enacted by going beyond existing legislation about where open carry is banned.

  • "The Legislature has said: Here are the places you cannot carry a weapon," Murray said at the hearing, according to the Detroit News. "The secretary has expanded that. And so how is that in accordance with state law?"
  • "The directive itself covers a substantive policy area — where a resident can openly carry a firearm — and applies to every resident of this state," suggesting that law enforcement is expected to enforce it, Murray wrote. 

The other side: "As the state's Chief Election Officer I have a sworn duty to protect every voter and their right to cast their ballot free from intimidation and harassment, Benson said, according to CNN. "I will continue to protect that right in Michigan, and we will be appealing this ruling."

What to watch: Nessel responded to Tuesday's decision that her office would appeal "as this issue is of significant public interest and importance to our election process," the Detroit News reports.

Go deeper