Alabama sheriff’s seek answers on gun policy in polling places

BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WALA) – In less than a week, people in our area will be heading back to the polls for a series of runoff elections. And even though Attorney General Luther Strange issued and opinion saying county commissioners can’t dictate if guns are allowed in polling places, that doesn’t change much.

“Because the sheriff, by Alabama law under Title 17, is specifically responsible for the security and the safety of the polling sites,” Baldwin County Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack said.

Under Alabama law, private polling sites like churches are able to decide for themselves if they will allow firearms while they are being used for voting. Likewise with schools, if they have a no gun policy normally, that still stands during elections.

The question for Mack and other sheriffs in Alabama is what regulatory authority they have for public buildings that are used as polling places, like event centers and city halls.

“If a sheriff or a sheriff’s deputy encounters someone with a firearm in a polling site, what is the appropriate action? Can an arrest be made? What would be the specific charge? How would that be handled,” Mack said.

As the president of the Sheriff’s Association, Mack asked for clarification from Strange on behalf of all sheriffs in the state.

“Rather than a lot of individual sheriffs, such as myself or Sheriff Cochran or Sheriff Hale or Sheriff Jones asking for opinions as it relates to their county, we decided to ask for one opinion from the Sheriff’s Association to try to clear the matter up,” Mack said.

He sent the request early Wednesday morning. He said hopefully they will get a decision by the end of the week so they will have at least one day next week to disseminate the information to the all sheriffs, probate judges and county clerks.

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