published Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Attorney general: County commissions can't ban guns at polls in Alabama

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — With Alabama's runoff election a week away, the attorney general is telling county commissions that they don't have the authority to prohibit firearms at polling places.

The Chambers County Commission sought the advice of Attorney General Luther Strange after a few people carrying exposed guns showed up at polling places in Chambers and Shelby counties during the primary election June 3.

The attorney general issued a seven-page advisory opinion Monday that says state law doesn't give the county commission the authority to ban weapons at polling places. But it says state and federal laws that ban weapons in some public buildings, such as courthouses and schools, still apply when those venues are used as polling places. It also says churches and other private buildings used as polling places may prohibit guns, including those carried by people with permits to have concealed weapons.

The opinion applies to the runoff election July 15.

Bobby Timmons, executive director of the Alabama Sheriffs Association, said Tuesday he was glad the attorney general brought some clarity to the issue, but the president of the association, Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack, will ask the attorney general for another advisory opinion Wednesday. He said the attorney general will be asked whether sheriffs can ban guns from polling places because state law makes sheriffs responsible for keeping good order at election precincts.

Timmons said many poll workers are senior citizens who might be frightened by a voter carrying a gun. "I don't think an exposed weapon needs to be in a congested area," he said.

But he said, "Whatever they rule, that's what we are going to do."

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