Carrying a firearm to the polls is explicitly prohibited in Arizona and Florida
Many states prohibit firearms around schools
Plan on carrying your gun to the polls on Election Day? Read this first before you show up packing.
On Friday, a Trump supporter showed up to a Loudoun County polling station in Virginia, sporting a handgun in his waistband as he offered sample Republican ballots to voters outside.
“And as a voter, I felt intimidated,” Erika Cotti told CNN. “As my son and I walked away, I heard the man with the gun say… you’re voting for Crooked Hillary.”
But elections officials say the man broke no laws, as Virginia is an open carry state – meaning that individuals are generally allowed to carry an unconcealed weapon in public.
Yet the restrictions on firearms around polling places in most battleground states are a messy patchwork of state and local regulations – with some banning guns completely and others only restricting firearms around schools or government buildings.
So, before you head to the polls on Election Day with your gun, know the rules in these key states:
Arizona: Arizona generally allows carrying an unconcealed firearm in public, but it does prohibit bringing a gun to the polls on Election Day, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Colorado: Colorado generally allows carrying an unconcealed firearm in public. Guns are not permitted, however, on school grounds, and local governments may enact regulations prohibiting open carrying of firearms in a specific area within the local government’s jurisdiction, as long as signs are posted to that effect.
Florida: Florida generally prohibits the open carrying of a firearm – full stop.
Iowa: Iowa allows carrying an unconcealed firearm in public with a valid state license and nothing in the Iowa state code prohibits guns at polling places, according to Kevin Hall of the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office. Most polling places, however, are covered by other state laws prohibiting weapons around schools or government buildings.
Michigan: Michigan does not prohibit carrying an unconcealed firearm, but Michigan law is silent on the whether guns are permitted polling places. “It’s just not addressed in election law,” Fred Woodhams, spokesman for the Michigan secretary of state, told CNN.
Nevada: Nevada generally allows carrying an unconcealed firearm in public, and has Nevada has no statute prohibiting firearms at the polling places, but administrative regulations may still apply.
New Hampshire: New Hampshire is an open carry state and there are no regulations prohibiting the possession of firearms at polling places. “So yes, a safely holstered sidearm is permitted at polling stations in New Hampshire as far as New Hampshire law is concerned,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Buonamano told CNN. “However, there is the federal gun free school zones act which an individual might be violating by coming into a school-based polling place with a firearm.”
North Carolina: North Carolina generally allows carrying an unconcealed firearm in public and has no statutes prohibiting firearms in polling places. “(I)nstead firearms are regulated under various provisions associated with the facilities at which voting is taking place: no guns in schools (most polling places), state buildings, municipal buildings, etc.,” according to Patrick Gannon of the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
Ohio: Ohio state law does not restrict the carrying of unconcealed firearms in public, including in polling places. “However, if the polling place is held in a location with a firearm ban (e.g., a school), that is obviously still in effect on Election Day,” the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office told CNN. And if you want to serve as a poll observer, you are not allowed to carry a firearm into a polling station.
Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania generally allows the carrying of unconcealed firearms in public and there are no laws that specifically prevent a person from carrying or possessing a firearm at a polling place. Philadelphia, however, is different, and a license is required to openly carry a firearm. Moreover, if the polling place is located in an otherwise prohibited place, such as an elementary school or courthouse, then firearms are prohibited, according to Pennsylvania State Department spokeswoman Wanda Murren.
Virginia: Virginia generally allows carrying an unconcealed firearm in public. Virginia does, however, prohibit the carrying of certain kinds of loaded firearms, openly or concealed, in certain locations, such as schools.
Wisconsin: Wisconsin generally allows carrying an unconcealed firearm in public, but polling place prohibitions depend on local rules. “If the municipality does not designate polling places as gun-free zones, then it is up to the owner of the building where voting takes place,” Reid Magney, Public Information Officer for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, told CNN. “There is no blanket policy for the state of Wisconsin – it’s a local decision. There are 1,854 municipalities in Wisconsin, and each of them may decide whether to set a policy on firearms.”