ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WALA) – The issue at odds Monday morning in Orange Beach seemed to be one of gun rights versus voting rights. Following an opinion issued by Attorney General Luther Strange last month, the Alabama Sheriff’s Association asked what the sheriff’s authority is in regard to regulating guns in polling places.
“That intimidates a whole lot of people. And some of them will say they have rights and they do have rights, but on the other hand, people have other rights too at the polling places and that’s to not be intimidated when they go to vote,” Montgomery County Sheriff D.T. Marshall said.
“I don’t think that there’s a need for a handgun in a polling place. I don’t think that you’re going to be in danger for your life, be called upon to defend your life or anybody else’s in a polling place,” Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith said.
When asked if he would support such a decision, Strange said he would, but the constitutionality of such legislation would need to be ironclad.
“I’m supportive of keeping anything out of the polling place that’s intimidating to our voters. And if it’s firearms or if it’s anything else, then that’s something we’re going to look very seriously at. As I told the sheriffs that were concerned about that issue, we have to make sure what we do is constitutional,” Strange said.
With a federal judge overturning a ban on the public carrying of guns in Washington D.C. on Saturday, Strange said they need to be cautious before creating any legislation.
“It may well able to be addressed through our opinion. But as I told Sheriff Marshall, I’m opposed to any kind of intimidation at the polling place. That’s our fundamental right that we’ve got to protect,” Strange said.
One of the other concerns the sheriffs still have with the gun bill is the clause that allows someone who is 18-years-old to get a concealed carry permit. The issue being the sheriff may not have access to a juvenile’s criminal history in the same way they would for an adult.
“That individual could’ve been, if as an adult, been denied a concealed carry permit, but because they’re a juvenile, then we may not have that information,” Baldwin County Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack said.
Mack said more discussion will have to be had on that issue. As for the opinion on guns in the polling place, Strange said his office would issue an opinion before the November election.