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September 28, 2023 ABA Task Force for American Democracy

Guns and Voting: How to Protect Elections After Bruen

Brennan Center for Justice and Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence


Due to easy access to firearms, gun regulation is an especially salient component of combating political intimidation and violence in America. Recently, many states have moved to deregulate firearms, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Bruen has weakened existing gun restrictions. Concurrently, threats of political violence are on the rise, fueled by new conspiracy theories of “rigged” elections. This report surveys these two phenomena, first reviewing recent changes to state and national gun regulations, and then examining the rise of election vitriol and threats. The report provides a comprehensive state-by-state analysis of current firearm restrictions as applied to “sensitive” election sites. It then provides recommendations on how to best protect elections from gun-related intimidation and violence.

Key Findings/Messages

Recent polls show Americans are becoming more fearful of participating in traditional civic activities like protest, assembly, and voting. One in three election officials have experienced threats, harassment, or abuse because of their job. Despite strong public support for regulating guns at poll sites, only 12 states broadly prohibit both open and concealed carry of firearms at polling places.

Key Recommendations Made

  • Prohibit all guns in and around sites where elections take place. 
  • Strengthen anti-intimidation election laws. Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 provides strong anti-intimidation protections. States should use the broad language of 11(b) as the model for their own anti-intimidation laws. Specific reference to firearms will make these protections even more powerful.