Amnesty warns that Black and Latinx voters are particularly vulnerable targets of armed intimidation, and urges governors nationwide to take immediate action to protect every person’s safety while they vote. These precautionary measures would also protect tens of thousands of poll workers, who will be putting themselves at great risk already by volunteering to work in a crowded environment during a pandemic.
“The United States’ uniquely permissive gun laws are pouring fuel on the flames of a combustible moment, while the rules and norms to protect people participating in the elections from violence are not up to the task,” said Ernest Coverson, Manager of the End Gun Violence Campaign. “Given the surge in gun sales, the recent rise in political unrest and violence, and the sobering reality that there are more guns than people across the United States, Americans are more likely than ever to come face to face with armed individuals at their polling place. There are concrete actions that state officials can and must take to intervene.”
Amnesty issued the following recommendations:
- Prohibit guns/firearms from polling places. While most jurisdictions across the U.S. limit armed law enforcement officers from within 100 feet of the voting booths, the majority of states have no laws regarding armed private citizens in or around polling places. People should be held to at least the same standard as law enforcement officers. Secretaries of State across the country can institute temporary measures to guarantee that polling places are free of the threat of gun violence.
- Expand funding for gun violence prevention nationwide: Ultimately, gun violence is an ever-present threat in the lives of people living, working, or traveling in the United States, a threat that has increased in recent months. Amnesty supports a significant increase in local, state and federal funding for gun violence prevention programs, sustained well beyond election day. From Baltimore to Chicago, these programs are proven to reduce violence, but many this year face significant budget shortfalls because of plunging local, city and state revenues. A longer-term investment in gun violence prevention across the U.S. will enhance the ability of every person in the United States to pursue life, liberty and happiness.