When Jimmy Allen walked into the polling station at the Lakeview Volunteer Fire Department on June 3 to cast his ballot in Alabama's primary election, he had no idea that the .40-caliber Smith & Wesson M&P Pro Series C.O.R.E. pistol strapped to his side -- a weapon that fires 15 rounds from a single clip, plus the one already in the chamber -- would raise eyebrows. Mr. Allen votes regularly, and no one had given his gun so much as a second glance before. But on this day, a polling official -- his Aunt Rita, actually -- took issue. "She threw her hands in the air and said, 'No guns allowed!' " Mr. Allen recalled last week. "I laughed, because I thought she was being funny."
Voters in Alabama can head to the polls today, casting a ballot in several statewide, runoff primaries. And though none of the races has generated national attention, there is some interest in what Alabamans can bring with them into the voting booth. Michael Wines reported the other day:
But Aunt Rita wasn't kidding. As the New York Times' report explained, the Alabama Sheriffs Association had encouraged each of the state's counties to ban unconcealed firearms from polling places, hoping to prevent voters from being frightened at their local voting precinct.
In this case, Jimmy Allen agreed to leave his loaded gun in his car, then returned to vote, and then left.
But as it turns out, that was the start, not the end, of the broader controversy.
Allen later protested the policy, which led local officials to seek an opinion from the state attorney general's office on whether counties can legally bar guns from polling stations. The answer was no: Alabama's open-carry laws list some buildings in which unconcealed firearms are prohibited, but voting precincts aren't on the list.
So, in Alabama, voter-ID is required, unconcealed loaded firearms are optional. Good to know.
As for Allen, a 50-year-old computer technician, he's left his job to hit the campaign trail -- he's now running for county sheriff as a Republican, with the backing of a gun-rights group called BamaCarry.