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Police in Michigan, a hotbed for armed far-right groups, said they may be powerless to enforce a ban on guns at polling places

Police in Michigan, a hotbed for armed far-right groups, said they may be powerless to enforce a ban on guns at polling places

Michigan militia

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Michigan police chiefs have said they are unwilling and unable to enforce a ban on openly carrying firearms to polling stations, local media reported.

Law enforcement spoke out about the ban with around one week to go until the November 3 US election. It was imposed this month by Michigan authorities worried that armed groups could intimidate voters..

Michigan secretary of state Jocelyn Benson brought in the ban earlier in October. In a memo he noted that the presence of armed individuals at polling stations “may cause disruption, fear, or intimidation for voters, election workers, and others present.”

The ban prohibits the open-carrying of guns “in a polling place, in any hallway used by voters to enter or exit, or within 100 feet of any entrance to a building in which a polling place is located.”

But in a statement Monday to WKAR, Robert Stevenson, executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, said he did not see a way for it to be enforced.

“The chiefs aren’t saying we won’t enforce it, the chiefs are saying we don’t see how we can enforce it,” he said. “That’s exactly the direction we’ve gotten from county prosecutors.”

The statement comes after challenges to the legality of the order by gun rights groups, reported Detroit News. Opponents argue that it violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Stevenson stressed in the statement that police officials were not taking sides in the dispute.

“We’re interested in following the law, whatever the law is,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of hate mail accusing us of supporting militias or white supremacists and wanting guns at the polls. That’s untrue. We just want clear law we can follow and right now it’s not there.”

The ban was imposed after a surge in activity by so-called militia groups in the stat.

Not long before the ban, a group of individuals were charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

In April, heavily armed so-called militia members occupied the state Capitol building in protest at lockdown restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Whitmer has accused President Donald Trump of deliberately “inspiring and incentivising domestic terrorism” after the president criticised her at a rally shortly after the alleged kidnapping plot was foiled, at which his supporters chanted “lock her up.”

In a series of tweets, the president had condemned the kidnapping plot, but kept up criticism of Whitmer for the lockdown measures in the state which prosecutors say were the prompt for the kidnapping plot.

The president, who has repeatedly and baselessly suggested that the election will be rigged, has called on supporters to act as informal election monitors.

Far-right groups have taken that as a call to action, experts on extremism have told The Guardian.

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