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Citizens Armed on Voting Day, Should We Be Worried?

In this picture series, Richard Bednarski looks into the question of armed citizens and whether we should be worried as Election Day unfolds and results come out later tonight.

Having voted early, Bob Fulkerson came out to the polls to keep an eye on the president’s supporters and make sure they do not cause any mayhem or chaos. “There’s only one reason to bring guns to the polls and that’s to intimidate voters,” he said.

Legal in Nevada

It is legal to openly carry a rifle, handgun or any legal firearm while walking in Midtown Reno, down the Las Vegas Strip or anywhere in Nevada unless you have previously been convicted of a crime or otherwise disqualified. With a permit, you can carry a concealed handgun in the Silver State. At recent protests, in Reno and in rural areas of northern Nevada, there have been visible firearms, mostly carried by biker gangs and extremist militias, who typically support incumbent Republican President Donald Trump.

I wanted to hit the streets and find out how people feel about the president’s call to his supporters to show up to the polls en masse and how our neighborhood voters felt about guns being present at polling locations.

“I got here at eight o’clock,” Joy Horan said of an early morning voting line at Reno High. While waiting in line, Horan said that “the times are changing, this year voting is making a statement of who we are and getting out there and voting is a huge opportunity to show how Nevada wants our future state to be ran.” She said she was not concerned with guns being present at voting locations and believes it is everyone’s right to bear arms.

My next stop was the Wilbur D. May Museum at Rancho San Rafael park. I spoke with Kyle Anderson who believes “it’s our American Right” to vote and “everyone should watch the polls. As a gun owner he said he is not worried about having armed citizens at the polls.
“I honestly care about what’s actually the future of this country,” said Jacob Vonnostrand, who is “a little uncomfortable. Everyone does have their own right,” about guns being present on Election Day.

Anxiety with Results to Come

As a new American citizen who emigrated from Austria, Kanut Wagner is glad to “have my voice heard.” Wagner says he wants “a fair election and acceptance of what is to come.”

Every poll location is marked with signs to denote the distance campaign supporters must be from the polls.

“I believe in our country and our rights,” says Christine Coan at the Bartley Ranch Regional Park. “I’m anxious to see what our people think,” she said.

She is concerned about guns being present at polling locations and believes it is not right but understands people watching the polls to support a candidate.

Jesus Jaimez waited in line at Reed High School during the lunch rush. While divided on the candidates he believes that “everybody should go out and vote.” He feels if people show up with guns they will be “exercising their right to bear arms but when they start pointing them at people, that’s where it crosses the line.”
Every polling location requires masks and there is hand sanitizer available as new COVID-19 cases have set records over the past week in Washoe County.

How tonight’s early results are accepted, and how the days ahead will shake out remains to be seen with many stores in Reno and elsewhere boarding up and fearing possible violent unrest, and some gun owners undoubtedly ready to walk around in public armed, with the ramifications of this explosive cocktail still uncertain.

Reporting by Richie Bednarski for the Reynolds Sandbox



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Reynolds Sandbox

Reynolds Sandbox

Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.