Amnesty International USA called on governors to ban guns at, and near, polling places because firearms could be used to intimidate minority voters, a statement by the organization said Tuesday.
The “unprecedented pre-election advisory” warns of the potential of armed intimidation of voters at polling places, and says that while most jurisdictions across the U.S. limit armed law enforcement officers from being within 100 feet of the voting booths, most states have no laws about armed private citizens in and near polling places.
PRE-ELECTION ADVISORY: Ban guns at and near polling places
— Amnesty International USA (@amnestyusa) October 6, 2020
Specifically, Black and Latinx voters are particularly vulnerable” to being targeted by armed intimidation, according to the group, which says there’s an elevated risk of these incidents due to the historic surge of gun sales in 2020, a rise in white supremacist violence, and mass unemployment.
“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,” Ernest Coverson, Manager of the End Gun Violence Campaign said according to the Amnesty statement.
The advisory comes after President Donald Trump urged people to “go into the polls and watch very carefully” for potential election issues during the first presidential debate, prompting some Democrats to sound the alarm about potential voter intimidation, NBC reported.
“I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully because that’s what has to happen. I am urging them to do it.”
“The President is blatantly urging his supporters to congregate at polling places, go inside, and ostensibly harass and intimidate voters,” Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement Wednesday according to NBC. “While there are authorized ‘poll watchers’ who monitor polls on Election Day, their duties are clearly laid out, and they do not include what President Trump has suggested.” (RELATED: Voter Fraud Charges Filed Against Florida Man Who Requested Ballot For Dead Wife)
Amnesty also points to remarks made by the top spokesman at Health and Human Services Michael Caputo about urging the public to buy ammunition in preparation for potential unrest “when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration” and “shooting will begin.”
“The drills that you’ve seen are nothing,” he said, adding: “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get,” Caputo said in the full quote, according to NY Post.
“The widespread presence of guns at polling places, or armed groups aiming to intimidate voters, is a grave threat to the rights of all people to life, health, and security, and to participate in the political process free from discrimination and violence,” said Coverson.