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September 20, 2012

Voters may see more guns at polling places

INDIANAPOLIS — NOTE: In an earlier version of this story, it was incorrectly reported that state Sen. Jim Tomes, the law's author, encourages gun owners to openly display their firearms in public places. While legal gun owners have the right to do so, Tomes said the intent of his law was to provide a uniform policy for legal firearms carriers statewide. Tomes said he doesn’t advise licensed owners to carry openly because it sets those legitimate citizens up as targets for those who intend to commit a crime and causes unnecessary fear among other citizens who are unaware of such firearms laws. Below is a corrected version. We regret the error.

Don’t be surprised if you see somebody with a handgun at your local polling place this November.

A 2011 state law that barred local governments from enforcing their own gun restrictions also covers many public buildings where people go to vote.

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson says the law is clear: Unless the polling place falls under the few exemptions in the law, legal gun owners have the right to openly bear their arms while they vote. “That matter has been settled,” Lawson said.

But it’s not quite been put to rest.

Last month, a Zionsville attorney who’s built a law practice as the unofficial enforcer of the 2011 law, filed a lawsuit on behalf of a northern Indiana man who was turned away from his polling place in a fire station during the May primary election after he refused to take off his holstered handgun.

Guy Relford thinks his client was a victim of ignorance of the 2011 law and predicts similar incidents may occur with the November election. “I routinely get calls from people who say their local officials and local law enforcement don’t know or understand the law,” Relford said. “But ignorance is no defense.”

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