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Michigan State Senate Candidate Encourages Supporters to “show up armed” at Polling Places

February 1, 2022

At an event in Livingston County this Saturday, Mike Demner, a Trump-endorsed Republican candidate for Michigan Senate, encouraged a crowd to “show up armed” at polling places. His comment was made in response to a question about Detroit election observers in the 2020 presidential race. The question, posed by an attendee, cited unfounded claims that Republican election observers had been mistreated and pushed out of the TCF Center while ballots were being counted. “The American people,” Demner said, “if we can’t change the tide…we need to be prepared to lock and load.” 

In Michigan, armed intimidation of voters is illegal. After the planned kidnapping of Governor Gretchen Whitmer and several armed demonstrations on the grounds of the Michigan Capitol starting in the spring of 2020, the Michigan Capitol Commission unanimously prohibited the open carry of firearms inside the statehouse. 

In recent years, we’ve seen that dangerous rhetoric from elected officials and prominent leaders, regardless of stated intent, can result in political violence. On January 6, 2021, a crowd of armed insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol building, fueled by similar sentiments about election fraud and vigilantism from prominent GOP politicians. Comments like Demner’s are a threat to free and fair elections, which are the cornerstone of American democracy. Read Everytown’s fact sheet on Ending Armed Assaults on Democracy here.

There’s no place for armed intimidation in our democracy. Yet research from Everytown for Gun Safety and its partner the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) has chronicled 114 armed demonstrations at legislative grounds in 2020 and 2021. Courthouses, protests, rallies, and voting centers are all places where politically-motivated violence can occur, and allowing firearms in these spaces can be a recipe for tragedy. 

Last year, several states — including Virginia, Washington, New Mexico, and Oregon — took action to protect democracy by keeping firearms out of polling places. Despite these wins, many states’ laws still fail to prohibit guns in sensitive areas. Some states even require certain locations to allow civilians to carry guns. All states should protect public safety by ensuring that sensitive area restrictions are in place and routinely enforced.

More information about our work to prohibit guns in sensitive places is available here.

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