Polis signs law banning open carry of firearms at Colorado polls

People won’t be able to display their guns within 100 feet of a polling place under a law Governor Jared Polis signed on Wednesday.

House Bill 1086, dubbed the Fearless Voting Act, makes it a crime to openly carry firearms near ballot boxes, buildings with polling places or counting facilities during elections. The open carry of firearms is otherwise legal in much of Colorado. The law still allows licensed Coloradans to carry concealed firearms and exempts on-duty law enforcement officers and people who open property they own that are in the buffer zone.

Polis, a Democrat, during the bill signing ceremony, called voting “one of our most sacred rights as Americans,” and said this law will help prevent Coloradans from feel intimidated when they vote. He noted that Colorado already limits other rights, like prohibiting people from advertising on behalf of a candidate, within that 100-foot zone.

Sponsor representative Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver, recounted how armed crowds greeted voters in the Jim Crow South less than 100 years ago. She called it “heartbreaking” to introduce this bill in 2021.

“Unfortunately, we have a legacy of what it really means to openly carry guns by way of intimidation,” Bacon said at the ceremony. “We just wanted to put our foot down and say it is what it is.”

Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who faced threats during the 2020 election and her prosecution of alleged tampering with voting machines by Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, said the rhetoric around elections had only intensified.

The bill passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and Senate largely along party lines — no Republicans voted for it, and Rep. Donald Valdez of D-La Jara is the only Democrat to say no.

Republicans argued it would be a violation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms, unfairly penalize people who accidentally enter the 100-foot zone with otherwise legal firearms at their hips, and asked why. this did not apply to other weapons, such as clubs. to be brandished.