An open-carry activist was arrested Tuesday after trying to bring his handgun into an Alabama polling place.
Robert Kennedy Jr., a founding member of the gun-rights group BamaCarry, was charged with a voting violation after wearing a loaded .357 Magnum Taurus revolver into a church in Pelham, reported AL.com.
Kennedy spoke briefly to a Shelby County sheriff’s deputy he encountered in the church lobby before voluntarily handing over his pistol and consenting to a pat-down search.
Alabama state law allows for the open carry of firearms unless otherwise posted – as each polling place in Shelby County did in asking voters to leave their guns outside.
"Our goal is to allow every registered voter in Shelby County the right to vote in an influence-free environment," said Sheriff Chris Curry in a statement last week. "Voting is a constitutional right and it is our job to facilitate the process effectively and efficiently."
But Kennedy and some other gun-rights activists believe their constitutional right to openly carrying firearms should take precedence over state laws allowing private owners and governing bodies to ban guns from their properties.
He argues that Alabama law prohibits the arrest of an elector who is going to or returning from voting – “except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace or for a violation on that day of any of the provisions of the election law."
Kennedy insists that carrying a legal, holstered firearm to a polling place is not a breach of the peace, the newspaper reported.
A spokesman for the sheriff’s office said Kennedy was charged with a misdemeanor violation of a criminal code titled “obstruction, intimidation, etc., of voting rights of others.”
Kennedy wore a holstered pistol to the same polling place July 15 for a primary runoff and was allowed to vote.
Another gun-rights activist, John David Murphy, was prevented from voting June 3 in a primary election in Shelby County.
A sheriff’s deputy ordered Murphy to leave his holstered 9-mm handgun and two ammunition magazines in his truck before voting at an Alabaster church.