Gaetz says he supports voters arming themselves at polls

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) speaks during the House Judiciary Committee markup of the "Protecting Our Kids Act," to vote on gun legislation on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, June 2, 2022.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) on Thursday said he supports voters arming themselves when headed to the polls in an effort to protect against intimidation.

“I sort of like [Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas] Massie’s legislation that maybe everyone who’s a voter or on their way to vote ought to have the opportunity to carry a firearm to ensure that they’re not subject to any intimidation,” Gaetz said.

Gaetz’s comment came as the House Judiciary Committee was marking up a package of bills that seek to tighten gun regulations. Among the measures included is legislation that would prohibit straw purchases — when someone who cannot pass a background check purchases a firearm through a proxy buyer — and a bill that would raise the age requirement to purchase a semi-automatic weapon from 18 to 21 years old.

A Gaetz aide told The Hill that the congressman was referring to an amendment to the latter measure proposed Massie that seeks to create a carve-out from the age requirement for individuals registered for Selective Service, the system that tracks information on men ages 18 to 25 for national emergencies.

The amendment failed in a 24-20 vote.

Roughly a dozen states prohibit guns from being carried at polling sites, including California, Arizona, Florida and Georgia, according to the Los Angeles Times.

On the other hand, five key swing states — Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin — have not enacted bans on firearms at polling places, despite having the constitutional power to do so, according to a study pushed in September 2020 by Guns Down and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, two gun control organizations.

Concerns regarding voter intimidation mounted around the 2020 presidential election, especially after then-President Trump encouraged his supporters to monitor polls on Election Day.

A number of states have passed voting bills in the aftermath of the 2020 race, including in Texas, where partisan poll watchers who can observe elections were given more authority. The bill in part prohibits election officials from turning down appointed poll watchers, making such a move a Class A misdemeanor.

Gaetz is a supporter of gun rights. Last week, in response to a tweet asking why civilians need AR-15-style rifles, the Florida Republican listed “target sport,” “Self defense” and “Hog hunting.”

“Just to name a few…” he added on Twitter.

The gun debate returned to national headlines last month after a gunman opened fire at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 students and two adults. Ten days before that, a gunman fatally shot 10 Black individuals in a racially motivated incident at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y.

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