Washington Election Observer Free To Carry His Gun Even Though Others Felt Unsafe
A Washington elections office will remain a firearms-friendly zone even though a certified election observer tasked by the county Republican party with overseeing people counting votes, unnerved people when he showed up packing a .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol.
[su_center_ad]There were no altercations when Gerald “Rick” Halle showed up armed, but later, some of the elections workers said they were uncomfortable.
Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey, also a Republican, said he would discuss the issue with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office but they determined that there’s nothing that can be done.
“The state has preempted the area of regulating firearms,” Chris Horn, the county’s chief civil deputy prosecutor said.
The Columbian reports:
In the future, if observers show up with sidearms, a staff member will ask them to voluntarily put their firearm in a newly purchased gun safe.
If the observers don’t want to park their guns in the safe, “they will still be welcome to carry out their responsibility,” Kimsey wrote in an email.
The county currently prohibits employees from carrying firearms at work, but elected officials and the public are allowed to bring weapons into some county buildings. State and federal law bans the public from carrying weapons at the courthouse, juvenile justice facilities and the community health campus. The elections office is in a separate building not covered by those bans.
“Either the law has to be changed or the political parties have to re-evaluate the issues, since they pick the observers,” Horn said. “As far as the county is concerned, we can’t regulate or prohibit or even prevent people from exercising their legal rights.”
Halle, who all agreed wasn’t “brandishing” his firearm that day, said storing his gun in a safe would defeat the purpose of wearing a firearm.
“I can’t predict, no matter where I am — if I’m in an election office, the grocery store, a mall — I can’t predict what’s going to happen there,” Halle said. “I don’t know everyone else there and I’m not sure what they are capable of doing. I don’t know what will happen when I walk out the door. It’s like putting on my seatbelt or helmet.”
Lee Jensen, who was serving as an election observer, said having a partisan person “standing behind you, holding a gun” could easily be disruptive or intimidating.
“I would like to see a gun-free zone,”Jensen said.
“And for people who do carry guns to understand there are people who don’t feel the same way about guns everywhere,” he said.
“I don’t mind having an open dialogue about open carry,” Halle said. “It’s a chance for people to learn and understand what their rights are and aren’t and the reasons for us that choose to carry, why we do so.”
Or he could get a job where he doesn’t work closely with people who are trying to exercise their right to vote.[su_csky_ad]