The New York Times informs us that a fine gentleman by the name of Jimmy Allen was told he could not openly carry a gun into a polling place during last month's Alabama state primary.
He was, of course, not pleased.
Mr. Allen is one of several Alabamians with firearms who were confronted last month after the Alabama Sheriffs Association, fearing that an open display of weapons might frighten some voters, urged the state's 67 counties to ban unconcealed firearms from polling places. (Concealed weapons are O.K., as long as the gun owner holds a permit.) But it was Mr. Allen's protest, posted on his Facebook page that morning, that set in motion the chain of events that may have proved to be the ban's undoing.So, yeah, you can openly carry in any polling place in Alabama -- well, with a few exceptions:
The complaint prompted officials in Chambers County, the rural east Alabama jurisdiction where Mr. Allen lives, to ask the state's attorney general, Luther Strange, whether they did in fact have the power to ban unconcealed weapons from polling stations. Mr. Strange's reply, released last week, was an emphatic, if qualified, no: The State Legislature has already said where guns cannot be openly displayed, he wrote, and polling places are not on the list.
That said, Mr. Strange added, there are a few no-gun locations that sometimes serve as polling places, such as high-security government buildings. And owners of private buildings like churches that often host voting stations always have the right to prohibit firearms.It will not surprise you that certain upstanding citizens of Alabama have a problem with that.
Some gun owners here see even those exceptions as infringing on their freedom. Robert Kennedy, a founder of the gun-rights organization BamaCarry Inc., left his polling place in a church annex rather than surrender his firearm, the group’s president, Eddie Fulmer, said in an interview. The news website al.com quoted Mr. Kennedy as calling Mr. Strange's opinion "horrible." He added that the exemption allowing private buildings to bar the open carrying of guns "places somebody's private property rights over somebody's right to vote."That's right -- asking you to remove your gun for a few minutes while voting is depriving you of your right to vote.
But, of course, I only say that because I don't understand. Depriving an open-carrier from rural of Alabama of his gun, even momentarily, is a sin against his essential nature:
Why anyone would want to take a gun into a voting booth is the wrong question. "I don't wear my seatbelt only when I’m going to have an accident," Mr. Allen said....It's curious to me that the same people who think homosexuality is -- oh, how did the Texas Republican Party platform put it? -- a "chosen behavior" rather than an essential fact about oneself think carrying a gun at all times is essential rather than a choice. The folks who think you should get "repaired" for life if you have a lifelong attraction to people of the same sex think gun possession is so central to some people's nature that it shouldn't be interrupted even briefly.
Chambers County is a place where, as Mr. Allen said, his boyhood friends carried pistols from a young age and drove to school with gun racks in their cars....
"It's a matter of cultural identity," [George] Owens [of the group Alabama Gun Rights] said.
In Chambers County, a down-at-the-heels stretch of farms and forest on the Georgia border, a tradition of gun ownership has only been strengthened by the social and economic winds now sweeping away old ways of life. The county's textile plants -- here and in adjacent West Point, Ga., which once spun out millions of towels and bed clothes -- are gone, and with them a way of life that was the community's anchor. Residents say that youth gangs are a growing problem and that crime is on the rise; in March, the county indicted 41 people on charges of trafficking in cocaine, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs, Mr. Allen said, adding that guns are no longer just a tradition, but a necessity.Notice what's not said here? Gunners always tell us that private ownership of weapons is the key to maintaining law and order. They tell us that "an armed society is a polite society." Well, here are all these folks in Chambers Country openly carrying heat and crime is on the rise anyway. So what good are all the guns doing? Or is it that a gun culture and gun marketplace designed to make obtaining firearms as easy as possible for "good guys" inevitably becomes quite accommodating to "bad guys," who, as it turns out, can be awfully hard to distinguish from "good guys"?
And as for voting: yeah, I suppose, throughout American history, voters have exercised the franchise after a morning of hunting, and have shown up at the polls armed. But I don't think they brandished their guns the way modern gunners do, in an attitude of "Yeah? You want a piece of me?" Or if they did act that way at the polls, we didn't think those were well-run, fair elections.
I look at this, and I look at conservatives' obsession with fighting "voter fraud," and I foresee a day when black precincts in Republican states are routinely monitored by poll-watchers who are white, Republican -- and heavily armed. With the U.S. Supreme Court's blessing, of course. It's only a matter of time, right?