Green Bay City Council approves banning firearms, weapons at polls within the city

Published: Oct. 20, 2020 at 9:39 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Green Bay City Council approved banning firearms and weapons at polling locations in the city Tuesday night.

Currently, the state doesn’t have a universal law prohibiting firearms at polling places, but municipalities can choose to establish an ordinance locally.

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During Tuesday’s meeting, Green Bay City Clerk Kris Teske proposed the resolution to ban guns and weapons at polling locations in an effort to retain poll workers, not to take away anyone’s rights.

“We saw what happened in April when COVID came around, people didn’t want to work because of COVID, understandable,” said Teske. “Now they’re asking us, we want to feel safe, and then we’ll work.”

“I feel that poll workers and voters alike deserve to have that ease of guns not being allowed in a polling place," said poll worker Joyce Fritz during the meeting.

However, prohibiting people’s ability to carry when they vote didn’t sit well with other citizens and some alders.

“Stating that we can’t take our guns to a polling place actually makes me feel less safe as a holder of my CCW, I carry that for protection,” said Abby Ringle.

City Council President Jesse Brunette also chimed in.

“I’m uneasy about it for a lot of reasons, not because I’m a gun nut, I am not; but I understand people clinging to their right to bear arms, especially in contentious times,” said Brunette. “We cannot forget why this is. We are divided as a people, and we deserve better from our leaders.”

Firearms are already banned in schools and government buildings, but not explicitly on private property used as a poll locations, unless posted.

Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith recalled one situation during the August primary, where he was informed of a voter carrying at the former Sears building, which is being used as a polling location.

“I was approached by several poll workers who said they were intimidated or in fear by an individual who had a firearm or open carry affixed to their waist,” said Chief Smith.

The City’s Ordinance would only prevent voters from bringing a firearm into the building being used as a poll place, and could be asked to leave the weapon in their vehicle while they cast their ballot.

Chief Smith says officers will be ready on election day to respond to any incidents at the polls, but will not have a high police presence or do anything out of the ordinary.

“What I want is to make sure voters in Green Bay have a voting experience that’s just like every other year where they go in and they cast their ballots and there’s no issues," said Smith.

*This story has been updated to reflect that guns are not banned in churches. Individual churches have the right to ban firearms on its property.

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