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Court Rejects Appeal Seeking Gun Ban Outside Michigan Polling Places

DETROIT - The Michigan appeals court on Thursday rejected an appeal from a Democratic state official who wants to ban the open carrying of guns outside polling places.

The court, in a 3-0 order, declined to hear the case but noted that it's already illegal to intimidate voters or aggressively wave a gun in public.

"Anyone who intimidates a voter in Michigan by brandishing a firearm or, for that matter, by threatening with a knife, baseball bat, fist, or otherwise menacing behavior, is committing a felony under existing law," the court said.

The three-judge panel included Brock Swartzle, who is a candidate for the state Supreme Court.

The order came two days after a judge said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson had exceeded her authority in prohibiting the open carrying of guns within 100 feet of a polling place.

Formal process

Court of Claims Judge Christopher Murray said the policy didn't go through a formal rule-making process required under Michigan law.

Benson, the state's chief election officer, acted after federal authorities on October 8 said they broke up a scheme by anti-government paramilitary groups to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. But some county sheriffs said they wouldn't enforce the order, and the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police also had panned it.

FILE - In this June 4, 2019, photo, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel listens to a question from reporters in Detroit…
FILE - In this June 4, 2019, file photo, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel listens to a question from reporters in Detroit.

Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said she'll now ask the Supreme Court to take the case. Her office pointed to a weekend poll by The Detroit News that found 73% supported a gun ban.

Attorneys defending Benson said the secretary of state has discretion to set certain rules related to elections. They quoted voters as saying they would be discouraged from casting a ballot if they saw someone with a gun near a polling place. Some don't trust the absentee ballot option.

"While the presence of firearms might comfort some, that same presence instills discomfort and even fear in others," Assistant Attorney General Ann Sherman said in a court filing.

Steve Dulan, an attorney for the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners, said the group's members were upset with the "demonization" of gun owners through Benson's order.

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