With the upcoming election, we at U.S. Law Shield thought it important to remind our members as to the laws in their state regarding firearms at polling places. We turned to U.S. Law Shield of Oklahoma Independent Program Attorney Robert Robles for his input.
Here is what Robles says:
“I reviewed the Oklahoma Self Defense Act and found no specific statute prohibiting the open or conceal carry of firearms at a polling place. However, that does not mean that you will be allowed to carry your firearm into the polling place.
“Oklahoma has many polling places located on government owned and private owned property: in community centers, schools, colleges and privately owned buildings such as churches and social clubs like the Elks Lodge. Some places are leased by the government others are voluntarily provided by private owners as a public service.
“21 O.S. section 1277 lists the prohibited places but does not list a polling place as a prohibited place for carrying a firearm.
“Nevertheless, if the polling place is located in a school, university, government owned or leased building such as a community center, then obviously a conceal carry licensee or member of the public is prohibited from carrying a firearm at or in the prohibited place.
“Title 26 section 3-126 generally defines polling place and limits tort liability: Except as otherwise provided for by law, there shall be one (1) polling place for each precinct, said polling place to be located within the geographic boundaries of such precinct. The State Election Board shall be authorized to adopt rules and regulations providing exceptions to the aforesaid requirement. Persons, businesses, churches and any other nongovernmental entities providing space for use as a polling place shall not be held liable for any torts arising from any incident occurring in such space during the period when such space is used as a polling place.
“A private business, by placing a sign could limit the open or conceal carry of firearms on the premises, thus denying a citizen the right to open carry at the polling place if the firearm being carried is detected by the property owner or manager. However, the penalty is small and there is no criminal liability.
“21 O.S. section 1290.22 allows a private property owner or business to deny a CCL licensee access to the property by posting a sign. The denial of a CCL access to the polling place may turn out to be incidental to the property right protected under section 1290.22. However, that issue has not yet been tested by a court of appeals.
“The statute gives the property owner immunity from damages for its decision to deny access to the property under section 1290.22. See: section 1290.22 subsection E. A person, corporation, place of worship or any other business entity that does or does not prohibit any individual except a convicted felon from carrying a loaded or unloaded, concealed or unconcealed weapon on property that the person, corporation, place of worship or other business entity owns, or has legal control of, is immune from any liability arising from that decision. Except for acts of gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct, an employer who does or does not prohibit their employees from carrying a concealed or unconcealed weapon is immune from any liability arising from that decision. The provision of this subsection shall not apply to claims pursuant to the Workers’ Compensation Code.
“The government is not liable under section 3-126 for a private business denying a voter access to the polling place by placing a sign prohibiting the open or concealed carry on the private property. The good news is that it is not a criminal offense to disregard the sign. The bad news is one could be fined $250.00.
“Section 1290.22 provides in part:
A. Except as provided in subsection B of this section, nothing contained in any provision of the Oklahoma Self Defense Act shall be construed to limit, restrict or prohibit in any manner the existing rights of any person, property owner, tenant, employer, place of worship or business entity to control the possession of weapons on any property owned or controlled by the person or business entity.
B. No person, property owner, tenant, employer, place of worship or business entity shall be permitted to establish any policy or rule that has the effect of prohibiting any person, except a convicted felon, from transporting and storing firearms in a locked vehicle on any property set aside for any vehicle.
C. A property owner, tenant, employer, place of worship or business entity may prohibit any person from carrying a concealed or unconcealed firearm on the property. If the building or property is open to the public, the property owner, tenant, employer, place of worship or business entity shall post signs on or about the property stating such prohibition.
D. The carrying of a concealed or unconcealed firearm by a person who has been issued a handgun license on property that has signs prohibiting the carrying of firearms shall not be deemed a criminal act but may subject the person to being denied entrance onto the property or removed from the property. If the person refuses to leave the property and a peace officer is summoned, the person may be issued a citation for an amount not to exceed Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($250.00).
“Currently, there is no law in Oklahoma prohibiting the open or concealed carry of a firearm at a polling place. However, the CCL licensee will be in big trouble if he mistakenly enters a polling place located in a prohibited place listed under 21 O.S. section 1277.
“If the CCL licensee enters a polling place on private property, he might be asked to leave or take his gun to the car. If he refuses and insists on violating the property owners right to control access to his private property, then the CCL licensee could be cited and fined up to $250 for a non-criminal offense. The law has not been tested at the Supreme Court as to constitutionality.
“Again, though there is no specific prohibition related to carrying a firearm at a polling place, if the polling place is located in a government owned or leased building such as a school or building leased by the government, then the government building or school building prohibition, 21 O.S. section 1277, would attach along with the requisite penalties.”
So there you have it – the law on firearms at polling places in Oklahoma. Exercise your right and vote.