WASHINGTON, March 25, 2016 – More than 22,000 people have signed a petition asking Ohio to make an exception to its current laws and allow open carry at the Republican National Convention in July. The RNC will hold the convention at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
The arena currently prohibits weapons of any kind, which it says is in line with Ohio law. According to the arena’s website, “In accordance with the Ohio’s ‘concealed carry’ law and the right for private entities to ban handguns on their premises, firearms and other weapons of any kind are strictly forbidden on the premises.”
The petition was started anonymously and posted on Change.org. The profile for the poster has been removed from the site.
The petition itself says that the prohibition on weapons violates the Second Amendment of the Constitution and puts attendees “at risk.” It asks the Republican presidential candidates to lobby the RNC to allow open carry during the convention, and suggests that the RNC change the venue of the arena refuses to bend its policies.
The Internet is attributing the petition to Americans for Responsible Open Carry. However, there is little information available on the group, and its Facebook page is no longer active.
Recent mass shooting tragedies have renewed the national debate over the Second Amendment. The GOP generally backs the individual right to gun ownership, while many Democrats seek at least some form of restrictions and background checks.
There are variations within the parties as well.
The Republican candidates all oppose limits on high-capacity rounds. John Kasich says we need better parenting more than new gun laws. Donald Trump strongly supports an assault weapons ban, while Sen. Ted Cruz does not.
The Democrats are strongly against allowing the average person to carry a weapon. Secretary Clinton has constantly shared her zero tolerance for weapons. Unlike his Republican counterparts, Sen. Bernie Sanders strongly supports banning high-capacity ammunition.
The petition says that Cleveland is a violent city and cites the threat of terrorism as a reason for the change. “We are all too familiar with the mass carnage that can occur when citizens are denied their basic God-given rights to carry handguns or assault weapons in public,” the petition reads.
The petition is aimed at the arena, but also targets RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and the GOP candidates.
The gathering of high-level Republican leaders could attract terrorist attention. Despite that threat, the GOP has refused to allow weapons at the convention in the past. In 2012, firearms were banned by the Secret Service at the Republican convention in Tampa. This year, however, the addition of Donald Trump to the line-up could raise the threat even further. ISIS recently released a promotional and recruitment video that features images and voice snippets by Trump, and his anti-Muslim statements could act as a lightning rod for some jihadists.
The petition was filed as Cleveland police are preparing to buy 2,000 sets of riot gear, including riot-control suits and collapsible batons, as part of the city’s move to spend a $50 million federal security grant for the convention. The City of Cleveland won’t comment on specific security measures, but said in a statement last week that “working with our federal, state and local security as well as our business partners we look forward to a successful convention.”
The petition also urges Ohio’s Gov. John Kasich, also a presidential candidate, to use his executive power to override Ohio’s “gun-free zone” laws.
The Ohio Republican Party said it was not aware of the petition.
The petition also calls on the National Rifle Association to condemn the state’s law, which allows for gun-free zones, and for Kasich to close what it called a “loophole.” “Policies of the Quicken Loans Arena do not supersede the rights given to us by our Creator in the U.S. Constitution,” the petition reads.
The GOP Republican National Convention is going to be held at the Quicken Loans Arena July 18-21.
Ohio law does not require a permit or license to possess a handgun, rifle or shotgun, nor does it require background checks for private gun sales. Ohio has become known as an open-carry state, as gun owners are not required to inform law enforcement that they own a long gun but are required to report ownership of a handgun.
The question of whether to allow handguns at the Convention creates a dilemma for the RNC.
If the Quicken Loans Arena and the RNC cave to the demands set by this petition, it will likely match the concerns of a large part of their base, but will not necessarily lesson the possibility of violence. Trump rallies have turned violent even without handguns, and in an atmosphere of heightened tension, weapons could add to the violence. Moreover, individuals seeking to disrupt the convention could gain access and use handguns against the GOP candidates or members.
The other side, however, is the possibility of attacks and the Constitutional right to bear arms. If the RNC refuses to allow supporters to bring handguns into the Arena, they are also making a statement about gun rights. If there was an attack on the Convention, and attendees were not allowed to defend themselves, the Party could find itself in an awkward position.