© 2022 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WEDH · WEDN · WEDW · WEDY · WNPR
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bill to ban guns near election sites backed by Connecticut Senators Chris Murphy, Richard Blumenthal

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, (D-CT) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) meet while attending an event at the Gun Violence Memorial in front of the Washington Monument on Tuesday, June 7, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times
/
Getty
U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Democrats from Connecticut, meet while attending an event at the Gun Violence Memorial in front of the Washington Monument on Tuesday, June 7, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., is introducing legislation on Wednesday that would make it illegal to possess a firearm within 100 yards of any federal election site as instances of intimidation against voters and poll workers grow.

The proposal by Murphy, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and six other Democratic senators seeks to protect those casting and counting ballots. It levies increased penalties for those in violation of bringing a gun near those locations. Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., has a companion bill to prevent armed voter intimidation that he introduced in the House last year.

The Vote Without Fear Act comes months after Murphy’s work on bipartisan gun safety legislation that passed Congress for the first time in nearly three decades. But lawmakers have limited time left in the year to vote, and it is unclear how much support the bill would garner from Senate Republicans. If all Democrats are behind it, they would need at least 10 Republicans in support to clear a divided 50-50 Senate.

“Free and fair elections cannot happen … in the face of armed intimidation at the polls, but that’s become a disturbing reality for some Americans, as extremists driven by conspiracy theories about voter fraud are increasingly showing up to polling places with guns,” Murphy said. “This legislation will ensure voters and election workers continue to feel safe participating in the democratic process.”

The Senate bill considers election sites to be places where voters are casting ballots or a location that is processing or counting ballots for federal office. Those who knowingly bring a gun near an election location can be fined and imprisoned for up to one year. If they possess a firearm for the use of a crime near the area, they face a fine and up to five years in prison.

But the bill makes exceptions for on-duty law enforcement officers or private security guards hired by the election sites. It also includes protections for those who lawfully have a firearm in a vehicle or on private property that is located within 100 yards from the entrance.

Six states and Washington, D.C., already have laws on the books that prevent people from bringing guns to election and polling locations.

The Vote Without Fear Act has secured endorsement from local and national gun safety groups, including Newtown Action Alliance, which was founded after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting when a gunman killed 20 children and six educators.

Members of the Junior Newtown Action Alliance who are also former Sandy Hook students who survived the shooting recently rallied in Washington to call for further action on guns, urging the Senate to restore a federal assault weapons ban.

Passage of such legislation is highly unlikely, but groups like Newtown Action Alliance have been supportive of more incremental efforts to curb gun violence, like the recent bipartisan law that among other things strengthens background checks for people under age 21 who are buying firearms.

“Armed intimidation at election sites disenfranchises voters and suppresses votes,” chairwoman Po Murray said. “Newtown Action Alliance is proud to support legislation that will promote safe and free elections for all American voters.”

Lisa Hagen is the federal policy reporter in a collaboration between Connecticut Public and The Connecticut Mirror. Hagen is based in Washington, D.C., and produces stories that examine the impact of federal policy on Connecticut.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content