A National Rifle Association certified instructor has filed a lawsuit in Atlanta federal court against elections officials who ordered him to remove his “NRA Instructor” hat before he could vote.
When Plaintiff Bundy Cobb showed up for early voting in Douglas County, Georgia, on October 24, a poll monitor insisted that he take off his hat or leave the premises without voting. When Cobb asked for an explanation, the official claimed that the hat was a form of campaigning. Cobb complied in order to cast his ballot.
In a subsequent encounter at the voting place later that day with a local reporter in tow, another official justified the directive because the NRA is perceived to be associated with the GOP, and officials were exercising “an abundance of caution” to avoid the appearance of favoritism.
Cobb, a Vietnam veteran, told the official that the chapeau that he wears all the time had nothing to do with politics. Instead, it served to promote his firearms training business and reflects his support for the Second Amendment (the right to keep and bear arms) of the U.S. Constitution and for gun safety.
Under the laws of Georgia and virtually all other states, electioneering is banned within 150 feet of a polling place.
On behalf of Cobb and all registered voters in the county, the Southeastern Legal Foundation is now suing the county for, among other things, allegedly violating Cobb’s First Amendment rights (an article of clothing under the law can be considered symbolic speech) and his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. In addition to money damages, the lawsuit is also seeking further training for poll workers to avoid any future alleged constitutional violations.
Shannon Goessling of the Southeastern Legal Foundation explained that the lawsuit has nothing specifically to do with the NRA in and of itself.
“This case is not about the NRA, nor is it about whether people like the NRA. Imagine if the same election officials had forbidden a t-shirt with a labor union logo — a union that had endorsed a Democratic candidate. Imagine if they had banned a hat with a Progressive Insurance logo or George Soros-funded group, or if they had banned a hat with a Koch logo. There’s no evidence they did this — but there’s clear evidence that they singled out the NRA, and they singled out Bundy Cobb with the full force of government. The only question now is, who’s next?”
Separately, a just-released poll from the Pew Research Center indicates that by a margin of 52 percent to 46 percent, Americans now support gun rights over gun control, the highest approval rate for the former in 20 years. “Nearly six-in-ten Americans (57%) say gun ownership does more to protect people from becoming victims of crime, while 38% say it does more to endanger personal safety,” the Pew summary added. The survey of about 1,5000 adults was conducted in the first week of December.
Do you think that NRA instructor Bundy Cobb has a strong civil rights case against the county?
[image via Shutterstock]