An online petition to allow guns into the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July has received more than 24,000 signatures in favor of overturning the “irresponsible and hypocritical act of selecting a ‘gun-free zone’” for the party’s quadrennial gathering.
The convention will be held between 18 and 21 July at the Quicken Loans Arena, a venue with a policy that forbids “firearms and other weapons of any kind” on its grounds. Republican debate venues have also barred firearms.
The petition, posted anonymously to Change.org last week, declares the Cleveland arena’s weapons ban “a direct affront to the second amendment and puts all attendees at risk”.
“By forcing attendees to leave their firearms at home,” the petition continues, “the RNC and Quicken Loans Arena are putting tens of thousands of people at risk both inside and outside of the convention site”.
The petition makes several other demands. It asks for Ohio governor John Kasich – one of the party’s three remaining presidential candidates – to use executive action to override arena owners’ right to set rules over their private property, and for the Republican party chair to explain “how a venue so unfriendly to second amendment rights was chosen for the Republican convention”.
“Every American is endowed with a God-given constitutional right to carry a gun wherever and whenever they please,” the author writes.
The question of an individual right to carry a gun only reached the supreme court in 2008, and states have broad authority to regulate gun control. God is not mentioned in the US constitution or bill of rights.
The group that claims to be behind the petition, Americans for Responsible Open Carry, appears to have been formed for the express purpose of creating the Change.org form. Twitter user Hyperationalist, whose biography reads “speaking truth to stupid”, took credit for the petition, and regardless of whether the form was created as parody, signatories’ comments show that many took it at face value.
A spokesperson for the Republican party told the Beacon Journal that secret service agents, Cleveland police and state and federal law enforcement agencies will handle security at the convention.
Kasich and his two rivals, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, have expressed vocal opposition to gun control. Trump has called for an end to gun-free zones in schools, and called places with gun bans “target practice for the sickos and for the mentally ill”.
“I think gun-free zones are a catastrophe. They’re a feeding frenzy for sick people,” he said.
Many Trump properties prohibit guns. The businessman has said he will consider lifting such rules.
The frontrunner has also warned that there could be “riots” at the convention, should he hold a majority of delegates but fail to secure victory.
Violence has increasingly plagued Trump’s campaign rallies: supporters have repeatedly assaultedprotesters ; his campaign manager has been accused of grabbing a reporter ; and the candidate has himself said he would like to see protesters punched or “roughed up”.
Some commenters on the petition alluded to such incidents, and claimed to have signed the petition because, as one Ohio man put it, “Republicans should face the same dangers that they have inflicted on the general public”.
Others were less equivocal – for instance, a Missouri man who declared : “You either support the [second] amendment or you don’t!”
Republicans clashed over guns with local and federal security before the 2012 convention in Tampa, Florida, where secret service agents only allowed law enforcement officers to carry firearms.
The city’s rules against gun control prohibited its police from enacting a proposal from Republicans to make Tampa a “clean zone”, prohibiting string and gas masks but not licensed firearms.
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